Estimation of preterm labor immediacy by nonlinear methods

Malaina I, Martinez L, Matorras R, Bringas C, Aranburu L, Fernandez-Llebrez L, Gonzalez L, Arana I, Perez M B, Martinez de la Fuente I,
PLoS One. 2017 doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0178257
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Preterm delivery affects about one tenth of human births and is associated with an increased perinatal morbimortality as well as with remarkable costs. Even if there are a number of predictors and markers of preterm delivery, none of them has a high accuracy. In order to find quantitative indicators of the immediacy of labor, 142 cardiotocographies (CTG) recorded from women consulting because of suspected threatened premature delivery with gestational ages comprehended between 24 and 35 weeks were collected and analyzed. These 142 samples were divided into two groups: the delayed labor group (n = 75), formed by the women who delivered more than seven days after the tocography was performed, and the anticipated labor group (n = 67), which corresponded to the women whose labor took place during the seven days following the recording. As a means of finding significant differences between the two groups, some key informational properties were analyzed by applying nonlinear techniques on the tocography recordings. Both the regularity and the persistence levels of the delayed labor group, which were measured by Approximate Entropy (ApEn) and Generalized Hurst Exponent (GHE) respectively, were found to be significantly different from the anticipated labor group. As delivery approached, the values of ApEn tended to increase while the values of GHE tended to decrease, suggesting that these two methods are sensitive to labor immediacy. On this paper, for the first time, we have been able to estimate childbirth immediacy by applying nonlinear methods on tocographies. We propose the use of the techniques herein described as new quantitative diagnosis tools for premature birth that significantly improve the current protocols for preterm labor prediction worldwide.