Easy as ABC: A System to Stratify Category II Fetal Heart Rate Tracings

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To evaluate whether a subcategory system for category II tracings can improve team communication and perinatal outcomes.

Study Design

We collected data prospectively for 15 months, first using the NICHD system, followed by the ABC system, which divides category II tracings into subcategories A, B, and C, each representing increased risk for metabolic acidemia. We surveyed providers about communication effectiveness and agreement on tracing interpretation for each system. In cases where the communication system was used to alert an off-site physician about a category II tracing, we compared arrival to L&D and NICU admissions.


The ABC system was preferred (69%, n = 152) and considered a more effective tool for communicating concerning fetal status (80% vs. 43%, p < 0.01). Participants also reported greater agreement on tracing interpretation (79% for ABC vs. 64% for NICHD, p = 0.046). When an off-site physician was contacted about a category II tracing (n = 95), they were more likely to arrive to L&D (44% vs. 20%, p < 0.01) and have fewer NICU admissions (0% vs. 6%, p < 0.01) with the ABC system.


The ABC system resulted in improved team communication, increased physician response, and decreased NICU admissions. Using standardized communication may offer a useful strategy for identifying and expediting care.

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