Qualitative assessment of interpretability and observer agreement of three uterine monitoring techniques

Kirsten M.J. Thijssen (Corresponding author), Juul G.L.J. Tissink, Jeanne P. Dieleman, M. Beatrijs Van der Hout - van der Jagt, Michelle E.M.H. Westerhuis, S. Guid Oei

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Objective: The aim of this research was to assess the quality and inter- and intra-observer agreement of tracings obtained by three different techniques for uterine contraction monitoring: the external tocodynamometer (TOCO), the intrauterine pressure catheter (IUPC) and a recently introduced method based on electrohysterography (EHG). Study design: We included 150 uterine activity registrations from a previous prospective observational study (W3 study), conducted at Máxima Medical Centre in Veldhoven, the Netherlands. Term singleton pregnant women were simultaneously monitored with TOCO, IUPC and EHG during labor. Six clinicians, blinded to the source (TOCO, IUPC, or EHG) and subject, evaluated all tracings that were subsequently presented in random order. They annotated contractions and assigned each tracing a score for interpretability of 2 (good), 1 (moderate) or 0 (poor). To evaluate inter-observer agreement, we calculated kappa values for the qualitative assessment, and intraclass correlation coefficients (ICC) for the number of contractions annotated by clinicians. Four clinicians repeated this procedure to evaluate intra-observer agreement. Results: IUPC tracings received the highest quality rating, with a mean score of 1.95, followed by a mean score of 1.60 for EHG and 0.80 for TOCO (p < 0.05). Mean weighted kappa values were 0.63 for TOCO and 0.45 for EHG. The average number of contractions that was picked up by clinicians was 59.8 for the intrauterine pressure catheter, 49.8 for EHG and 26.4 for TOCO. The ICC of the intrauterine pressure catheter was significantly higher than the external methods, regarding both inter- and intra-observer agreement (0.98 and 0.99 respectively). Conclusion: IUPC recordings scored best regarding quality, inter- and intra-observer agreement. However, due to safety issues, in many countries this technique is not used anymore. The quality of TOCO was rated as poor and many contractions were missed as compared to the gold standard. From a clinical interpretational point of view, EHG is favorable to TOCO. EHG recordings were assigned higher quality scores, but with less agreement between clinicians. An explanation could be that EHG is a relatively new technique, while IUPC and the TOCO are being used for decades. Building experience with EHG (training) is therefore recommended.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)142-146
Number of pages5
JournalEuropean Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Reproductive Biology
Early online date17 Oct 2020
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


  • Contraction monitoring
  • Electrohysterography
  • External tocodynamometer
  • Inter-observer agreement
  • Intra-observer agreement
  • Intrauterine pressure catheter


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