Head midline position for preventing the occurrence or extension of germinal matrix-intraventricular haemorrhage in preterm infants

Olga Romantsik, Maria Grazia Calevo, Matteo Bruschettini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: Head position during care may affect cerebral haemodynamics and contribute to the development of germinal matrix-intraventricular haemorrhage (GM-IVH) in very preterm infants. Turning the head toward one side may occlude jugular venous drainage while increasing intracranial pressure and cerebral blood volume. It is suggested that cerebral venous pressure is reduced and hydrostatic brain drainage improved if the infant is cared for in the supine 'head midline' position.

OBJECTIVES: To assess whether head midline position is more effective than other head positions for preventing (or preventing extension) of GM-IVH in very preterm infants (< 32 weeks' gestation at birth).

SEARCH METHODS: We used the standard search strategy of Cochrane Neonatal to search the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL; 2019, Issue 9), MEDLINE via PubMed (1966 to 12 September 2019), Embase (1980 to 12 September 2019), and the Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL; 1982 to 12 September 2019). We searched clinical trials databases, conference proceedings, and reference lists of retrieved articles.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) comparing caring for very preterm infants in a supine head midline position versus a prone or lateral decubitus position, or undertaking a strategy of regular position change, or having no prespecified position. We included trials enrolling infants with existing GM-IVH and planned to assess extension of haemorrhage in a subgroup of infants. We planned to analyse horizontal (flat) versus head elevated positions separately for all body positions.

DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: We used standard methods of Cochrane Neonatal. For each of the included trials, two review authors independently extracted data and assessed risk of bias. The primary outcomes were GM-IVH, severe IVH, and neonatal death. We evaluated treatment effects using a fixed-effect model with risk ratio (RR) for categorical data; and mean, standard deviation (SD), and mean difference (MD) for continuous data. We used the GRADE approach to assess the certainty of evidence.

MAIN RESULTS: Three RCTs, with a total of 290 infants (either < 30 weeks' gestational age or < 1000 g body weight), met the inclusion criteria. Two trials compared supine midline head position versus head rotated 90° with the cot flat. One trial compared supine midline head position versus head rotated 90° with the bed tilted at 30°. We found no trials that compared supine versus prone midline head position. Meta-analysis of three trials (290 infants) did not show an effect on rates of GM-IVH (RR 1.11, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.78 to 1.56; I² = 0%) and severe IVH (RR 0.71, 95% CI 0.37 to 1.33; I² = 0%). Neonatal mortality (RR 0.49, 95% CI 0.25 to 0.93; I² = 0%; RD -0.09, 95% CI -0.16 to -0.01) and mortality until hospital discharge (typical RR 0.50, 95% CI 0.28 to 0.90; I² = 0%; RD -0.10, 95% CI -0.18 to -0.02) were lower in the supine midline head position. The certainty of the evidence was very low for all outcomes because of limitations in study design and imprecision of estimates. We identified one ongoing study.

AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS: We found few trial data on the effects of head midline position on GM-IVH in very preterm infants. Although meta-analyses suggest that mortality might be reduced, the certainty of the evidence is very low and it is unclear whether any effect is due to cot tilting (a co-intervention in one trial). Further high-quality RCTs would be needed to resolve this uncertainty.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)CD012362
JournalThe Cochrane database of systematic reviews
Publication statusPublished - Jul 7 2020


  • Beds
  • Cerebral Intraventricular Hemorrhage/epidemiology
  • Cerebrovascular Circulation/physiology
  • Head
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Mortality
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature
  • Infant, Premature, Diseases/epidemiology
  • Patient Positioning/methods
  • Publication Bias
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Retinopathy of Prematurity/epidemiology
  • Rotation
  • Supine Position


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