The 2015 FIGO classification of intrapartum cardiotocography: differences to the STAN classification

The STAN Clinical Guidelines classification system of cardiotocography (CTG) [1] is originally based on the FIGO classification system from 1985 [2]. In October 2015, the FIGO Intrapartum Fetal Monitoring Expert Consensus Panel presented their new CTG intrapartum classification system [3] (Table 1).

Table 1. The 2015 FIGO intrapartum cardiotocography (CTG) classification system [3] in summary.

table 1

*) Decelerations are repetitive if they occur at >50% of uterine contractions.

a) Accelerations (amplitude >15 bpm, lasting >15 s but <10 min) are not included in the intrapartum CTG classification system because their absence have uncertain significance, but presence of accelerations indicates a neurologically responsive fetus without hypoxia/acidosis.
b) Tachycardia defined as >160 bpm for >10 min, bradycardia defined as <110 bpm for >10 min. A baseline 100-110 bpm may occur in normal fetuses, especially if postdate.
c) Reduced variability is bandwidth <5 bpm for >50 min in baseline segments, or for >3 min during decelerations.
d) Increased variability (saltatory pattern) is bandwidth >25 bpm for >30 min.
e) A deceleration is a loss of heart rate of >15 bpm for >15 s.
f) Early decelerations are shallow, short-lasting, have normal variability, and are coincident with uterine contractions.
g) Variable decelerations have a rapid drop to nadir within 30 s after onset, good variability, rapid return to baseline, are V-shaped but vary in shape, size and relation to uterine contractions.
h) Late decelerations are U-shaped with reduced variability, start more than 20 s after the onset of uterine contraction with a gradual onset with >30 s to nadir, have a nadir after the acme of contraction, and return to baseline gradually with >30 s from nadir to baseline.
i) Prolonged decelerations are lasting >3 min. Decelerations remaining <80 bpm for >5 min and with reduced variability are serious.
j) Sinusoidal pattern is a regular, smooth, undulating pattern resembling a sinus wave, with amplitude 5-15 bpm at frequency 3-5 cycles/min, lasting for >30 min and coinciding with absent accelerations.

In the 2015 FIGO system the CTG patterns are classified as normal, suspicious and pathological, and it is seemingly a 3-tier classification, but it can as well be called a 4-tier system if the pre-terminal CTG pattern (totally absent variability and reactivity, with or without decelerations and bradycardia) is regarded a separate class and not included in the pathology class under “reduced variability”. Absent variability and reactivity (silent pattern) is not equivalent with the term reduced variability (bandwidth <5 bpm). However, the FIGO authors do not discuss the pre-terminal CTG pattern exclusively.

The discrepancies between the CTG classification system used with STAN [1] and the 2015 FIGO classification [3] are illustrated in the following tables (terminologies from original publications are used, where suspicious and intermediary are regarded equal terms, as are pathological and abnormal).

Table 2. Fetal heart rate baseline

table 2

*) May be normal in postdate pregnancy.

Table 3. Variability, reactivity

table 3


Table 4. Decelerations

table 4

The main differences between the 2015 FIGO CTG classification and the STAN CTG classification are:

  • Baseline fetal heart rate 150-160 classified normal by FIGO but intermediary by STAN
  • Variability 5-25 bpm: accelerations not needed for normal CTG by FIGO
  • Absent variability (silent pattern) and pre-terminal pattern not classified by FIGO, but constitute a fourth CTG class (pre-terminal CTG) in the STAN CTG classification system

The STAN Clinical Guideline algorithm for evaluating CTG together with fetal ECG ST events has, with some adjustments, been used for more than 15 years. The interpretation algorithm is then well established, both in scientific studies and in clinical practice. In comparison with the 2015 FIGO CTG classification system there are important differences (Tables 2-4). Then, dependent on the CTG classification used, in cases of ST events reported by the ST log the recommended clinical management might differ.

Neoventa Medical AB is the manufacturer of the STAN fetal monitoring system and cannot recommend or support that the 2015 FIGO CTG classification system [3] or any other system is incorporated into the STAN Clinical Guidelines interpretation algorithm. A new CTG classification system cannot be adopted without performing studies where the new classification is tested and evaluated. This has not been done with the 2015 FIGO classification. The impact of CTG classification discrepancies and the differences in outcomes they would possibly cause is then a conjectural issue.



1. Amer-Wahlin I, Arulkumaran S, Hagberg H, Marsál K, Visser G. Fetal electrocardiogram: ST waveform analysis in intrapartum surveillance. BJOG 2007;114:1191-3.

2. FIGO Subcommittee on Standards in Perinatal Medicine. Guidelines for the use of fetal monitoring. Int J Gynecol Obstet 1987;25:159-67.

3. Ayres-de-Campos D, Spong CY, Chandraharan E, for the FIGO Intrapartum Fetal Monitoring Expert Consensus Panel. FIGO consensus guidelines on intrapartum fetal monitoring: Cardiotocography. Int J Gynecol Obstet 2015;131:13-24.

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