Fetal scalp blood sampling: Do pH and lactates provide the same information?

J Gynecol Obstet Hum Reprod. 2020 Oct 31;101964. doi: 10.1016/j.jogoh.2020.101964.Online ahead of print.


Objective: Assess the discordance between scalp pH and lactates performed from the same sample during labor.

Method: This single-center retrospective study included all women with a singleton fetus who had at least one fetal blood sample taken during labor. Some of them had up to seven samples. Scalp pH was the reference parameter for obstetric decision-making. The correlation between the pH and lactates was studied using Pearson coefficient. By categorizing the values as normal, pre-acidosis and acidosis, we were able to estimate agreement with Cohen’s kappa coefficient. The frequency of discordance in the categorization and the factors related to it were studied with univariate and multivariable analyses. Cases of severe acidosis at birth (cord pH < 7.00) and cases with acidosis scalp lactates but normal scalp pH were analyzed.

Results: We analyzed 480 samples from 268 fetuses among the 2644 deliveries during the study periode. Fetal blood sampling represented 10 % of deliveries. The scalp pH and lactates results were strongly correlated (r=-0.83), but their agreement was only fair (K = 0.36). In 29.4 % of cases, pH and lactates were discordant. Factors related to discordance were meconium-stained fluid, sampling at full dilation and multiple sampling. Six infants (2.2 %) had severe acidosis at birth. Cases’ analyses did not allow to conclude severe acidosis could have been avoided using scalp lactates for obstetric decision-making.

Conclusion: For more than a quarter of the samples, results were discordant between scalp pH and lactates, especially when cervix was full dilated and when the amniotic fluid was meconium-stained. A randomized controlled trial comparing the relevance of each parameter according to the obstetrical situation would be necessary.