Does delivery volume of family physicians predict maternal and newborn outcome?
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BACKGROUND: The number of births attended by individual family physicians who practice intrapartum care varies. We wanted to determine if the practice-volume relations that have been shown in other fields of medical practice also exist in maternity care practice by family doctors. METHODS: For the period April 1997 to August 1998, we analyzed all singleton births at a major maternity teaching hospital for which the family physician was the responsible physician. Physicians were grouped into 3 categories on the basis of the number of births they attended each year: fewer than 12, 12 to 24, and 25 or more. Physicians with a low volume of deliveries (72 physicians, 549 births), those with a medium volume of deliveries (34 physicians, 871 births) and those with a high volume of deliveries (46 physicians, 3024 births) were compared in terms of maternal and newborn outcomes. The main outcome measures were maternal morbidity, 5-minute Apgar score and admission of the baby to the neonatal intensive care unit or special care unit. Secondary outcomes were obstetric procedures and consultation patterns. RESULTS: There was no difference among the 3 volume cohorts in terms of rates of maternal complications of delivery, 5-minute Apgar scores of less than 7 or admissions to the neonatal intensive care unit or the special care unit, either before or after adjustment for parity, pregnancy-induced hypertension, diabetes, ethnicity, lone parent status, maternal age, gestational age, newborn birth weight and newborn head circumference at birth. High- and medium-volume family physicians consulted with obstetricians less often than low-volume family physicians (adjusted odds ratio [OR] 0.586 [95% confidence interval, CI, 0.479-0.718] and 0.739 [95% CI 0.583-0.935] respectively). High- and medium-volume family physicians transferred the delivery to an obstetrician less often than low-volume family physicians (adjusted OR 0.668 [95% CI 0.542-0.823] and 0.776 [95% CI 0.607-0.992] respectively). Inductions were performed by medium-volume family physicians more often than by low-volume family physicians (adjusted OR 1.437 [95% CI 1.036-1.992]. INTERPRETATION: Family physicians' delivery volumes were not associated with adverse outcomes for mothers or newborns. Low-volume family physicians referred patients and transferred deliveries to obstetricians more frequently than high- or medium-volume family physicians. Further research is needed to validate these findings in smaller facilities, both urban and rural.
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