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Investigating the use of ultrasonography for the antenatal diagnosis of structural congenital anomalies in low-income and middle-income countries: Systematic review protocol

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Stephanie Goley, Sidonie Sakula-Barry, Ann Kelly, Naomi Jane Wright

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere000538
JournalBMJ Paediatrics Open
Issue number1
Early online date13 Sep 2019
Accepted/In press17 Aug 2019
E-pub ahead of print13 Sep 2019
Published13 Sep 2019


King's Authors


Introduction Congenital anomalies are the fifth leading cause of mortality in children under 5 years globally. The greatest burden is faced by those in developing countries, where over 95% of deaths occur. Many of these deaths may have been preventable through antenatal diagnosis and early intervention. This study aims to conduct a systematic review that investigates the use of antenatal ultrasound to diagnose congenital anomalies and improve the health outcomes of infants in low-income and middle-income countries (LMICs). Methods and analysis A systematic literature review will be conducted using three search strings: (1) structural congenital anomalies, (2) LMICs and (3) antenatal diagnosis. Four electronic databases will be searched: MEDLINE, Embase, PubMed and the Cochrane Library. Title, abstract and full-text screening will be undertaken in duplicate by two reviewers independently using Covidence. Consensus will be sought from the wider authorship for discrepancies. Data extraction will be undertaken by the principal investigator. The primary analysis will focus on the availability and effectiveness of antenatal ultrasound for structural congenital anomalies. Secondary outcomes will include neonatal morbidity and mortality, termination rates and referral rates for further antenatal care. Descriptive statistics and a narrative synthesis will be included in the final report. The methodological quality of the included studies will be evaluated using the Cochrane-approved Risk of Bias for Non-Randomised Studies of Intervention and Risk of Bias in Randomised Trials V.2.0 tools. Ethics and dissemination Ethical approval is not required for conducting the systematic review as there will be no direct collection of data from individuals. The results will be submitted for publication in a scientific journal and presented internationally. Conclusion This is the first study, to our knowledge, to systematically review current literature on the use of antenatal ultrasound for the detection of congenital anomalies in LMICs. This is vital to define current practice, highlight global disparities and evaluate effects on health outcomes for infants in low-resource settings.

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