Therapeutic hypothermia (TH) for neonatal hypoxic-ischaemic encephalopathy (HIE), delivered mainly in tertiary cooling centres (CCs), reduces mortality and neurodisability. It is unknown if birth in a non-cooling centre (non-CC), without active TH, impacts short-term outcomes.
Retrospective cohort study using National Neonatal Research Database and propensity score-matching.
UK neonatal units.
Infants ≥36 weeks gestational age with moderate or severe HIE admitted 2011-2016.
Birth in non-CC compared with CC.
Primary outcome was survival to discharge without recorded seizures. Secondary outcomes were recorded seizures, mortality and temperature on arrival at CCs following transfer.
5059 infants were included with 2364 (46.7%) born in non-CCs. Birth in a CC was associated with improved survival without seizures (35.1% vs 31.8%; OR 1.15, 95% CI 1.02 to 1.31; p=0.02), fewer seizures (60.7% vs 64.6%; OR 0.84, 95% CI 0.75 to 0.95, p=0.007) and similar mortality (15.8% vs 14.4%; OR 1.11, 95% CI 0.93 to 1.31, p=0.20) compared with birth in a non-CC. Matched infants from level 2 centres only had similar results, and birth in CCs was associated with greater seizure-free survival compared with non-CCs. Following transfer from a non-CC to a CC (n=2027), 1362 (67.1%) infants arrived with a recorded optimal therapeutic temperature but only 259 (12.7%) of these arrived within 6 hours of birth.
Almost half of UK infants with HIE were born in a non-CC, which was associated with suboptimal hypothermic treatment and reduced seizure-free survival. Provision of active TH in non-CC hospitals prior to upward transfer warrants consideration.

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