Factors associated with birth injuries in neonates admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit: a retrospective study in a Ghanaian tertiary care setting

  • Alhassan Abdul-Mumin University for Development Studies, School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Department of Pediatrics and Child Health and Tamale Teaching Hospital, Tamale, Ghana
  • Kingsley Appiah Bimpong Tamale Teaching Hospital, Tamale.
  • Alexis DB Buunaaim University for Development Studies, School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Department of Surgery and Tamale Teaching Hospital, Tamale, Ghana
  • Ernest Kaa-Emabong Cheyuo Tamale Teaching Hospital, Tamale
  • Kwabena Agyapong Osman University of Ghana, School of Medicine, Department of Child Health, Accra, Ghana
Keywords: Birth injury, extracranial injury, Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Tamale, Ghana


Background: Birth injuries are structural damage or functional deterioration of the neonate’s body due to a traumatic incident at birth. The incidence and the type of birth injury varies from place to place. There is paucity of data on the incidence of birth injury in Ghana.

Objectives: To determine the incidence and factors associated with birth injury in neonates admitted in a tertiary institution in Northern Ghana.

Methodology: This was a quantitative retrospective study carried out on neonates admitted to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) of the Tamale Teaching Hospital between the period of January 2018 to December 2019.

Results: Out of the 5590 neonates admitted to the NICU, 205 were noted to have various forms of birth injury. This gave an incidence of 3.7 % or 37 per 1000 neonates admitted to our unit. Majority were male (n=123, 60%), most deliveries (n=143, 69.8%) occurred in the study hospital and spontaneous vaginal delivery accounted for 70.7% (n=145). Extracranial injuries (n=146, 66.1%) were the most common form of birth injury. Next was musculoskeletal injuries (n=41, 18.6%) with humeral fractures (n=15, 6.8%) been the most frequent in this category. Among the neonates with birth injuries there were 23 deaths recorded (11.2%) all but one of whom had associated birth asphyxia. Birth injuries were significantly associated with place of delivery(P=0.029). Out-born babies were more likely to have extracranial injuries (AOR=5.10, P=0.008, CI=1.53-16.94).

Conclusion. Extracranial injuries were the most common in this study. Place of delivery was significantly associated with birth injuries. Building the capacity of health care professionals is essential to reduce incidence of birth injuries. Some of these injuries can be avoidable if high risk pregnancies are referred early to institutions that have the resources and skill to deliver such babies.

Original Research Article