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The impact of external cephalic version on the rate of vaginal and cesarean breech deliveries: a 3-year cumulative experience.

The authors have reviewed the impact of their practice of external cephalic version (ECV) at term, with respect to success rate, factors associated with successful version and the effect of this protocol on the overall breech and cesarean breech rate. Two hundred and forty-nine parturients identified as having a breech presenting fetus after the 36th gestational week over a 3-year period, after excluding contraindicated cases, were offered a trial of ECV, with the use of ritodrine tocolysis. ECV was effected by one operator, using the minimally effective force necessary. Successful ECV was achieved in 196 attempts (78.7%). No deleterious effects in fetuses or mothers were noted. Of successfully turned fetuses, 78% eventually had a vaginal vertex delivery. Parity, birthweight and amount of amniotic fluid were found to have a significant effect on the success rate of ECV, whereas gestational age at version or placental location were not found to have a significant effect on success rate. Introduction of the ECV protocol effected a significant decrease in breech presentation at term, from 3.9 to 2.4% (P < 0.01), which can be translated into a decrease of 5.5% in the overall cesarean section rate. The authors conclude that ECV is a safe and effective procedure, in properly selected cases. Institution of a screening protocol to identify breech presentation after 36 weeks, and utilizing ECV where possible, may lead to a significant reduction in the breech delivery rate, and may prevent serious infant morbidity.

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