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07 Aug 2012

Umbilical Cord Blood Gas and Acid-Base Analysis: The Correlation To Brain Damage And Cerebral Palsy

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The umbilical cord is the sustaining lifeline for unborn fetuses. Once that cord is cut, they are forever cut off from their mother’s bodies and must survive in the world they have been born into. The umbilical cord was once discarded after it had full filled its function but now there is a new use for the cord after birth and the information it contains.

Umbilical Cord Blood Gas and Acid-Base Analysis

A test can be performed on the blood of the umbilical cord to determine if the PH levels are within a normal range. These levels can show if there was intrapartum asphyxia, a condition where the oxygen supply to the fetus was comprised. The testing for blood gas and the acid-base or PH levels in the umbilical cord can show the metabolic state the infant is in when born. If the levels are too low, it can mean academia, which is when there is a build up of lactic acid that can be caused from lack of oxygen.

Testing of this nature is especially important in difficult births, cesarean procedures and premature births as they have a higher risk that complications may have compromised the oxygen flow before birth. However, even in deliveries with no evident issues, knowing the PH levels in the umbilical cord can alert medical staff of issues in the infant’s condition. Knowing there has been possible interruption in the oxygen flow can affect how the child’s ongoing care may need to be altered.

An Indicator of Oxygen Deprivation at Birth

The Committee of Obstetric Practice recommended that physicians do testing minimally for the following delivery situations:

  • Cesarean delivery for fetal compromise
  • Low 5-minute Apgar score
  • Severe growth restriction
  • Abnormal fetal heart rate tracing
  • Maternal thyroid disease
  • Intrapartum fever
  • Multifetal gestations
  • Acidemia and Brain Damage

Determining low PH levels at birth can be the first indicator that there was a lack of oxygen or hypoxia that could be enough to cause hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE). HIE means the brain has sustained injury from lack of oxygen that can lead to permanent brain damage and cerebral palsy. Knowing the factors are present for possible brain damage issues can increase the level of care and observation needed for the infant.

With the technology available to perform these tests, it seems reasonable to use them whenever possible. It is important to note that even with low PH levels, many infants have no lasting effects or brain damage. However, knowing there is a metabolic issue at birth can allow for closer observation to ensure everything possible is done for the health and well being of the child.

If you are concerned if medical negligence contributed to your child’s case of cerebral palsy in Chicago or other cities throughout Illinois, you can talk with attorney Jonathan Rosenfeld. Jonathan’s office, Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers handles birth injury cases on behalf of disabled children and their families (888) 424-5757.

Resources for umbilical cord gas:





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