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Fast and accurate newborn heart rate monitoring at birth: A systematic review


To examine speed and accuracy of newborn heart rate measurement by various assessment methods employed at birth.


A search of Medline, SCOPUS, CINAHL and Cochrane was conducted between January 1, 1946, to until August 16, 2023. (CRD 42021283364) Study selection was based on predetermined criteria. Reviewers independently extracted data, appraised risk of bias and assessed certainty of evidence.


Pulse oximetry is slower and less precise than ECG for heart rate assessment. Both auscultation and palpation are imprecise for heart rate assessment. Other devices such as digital stethoscope, Doppler ultrasound, an ECG device using dry electrodes incorporated in a belt, photoplethysmography and electromyography are studied in small numbers of newborns and data are not available for extremely preterm or bradycardic newborns receiving resuscitation. Digital stethoscope is fast and accurate. Doppler ultrasound and dry electrode ECG in a belt are fast, accurate and precise when compared to conventional ECG with gel adhesive electrodes.


Certainty of evidence was low or very low for most comparisons.


If resources permit, ECG should be used for fast and accurate heart rate assessment at birth. Pulse oximetry and auscultation may be reasonable alternatives but have limitations. Digital stethoscope, doppler ultrasound and dry electrode ECG show promise but need further study.


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