Pregnancy outcome after successful external cephalic version for breech presentation at term

T K Lau, K W Lo, M Rogers
American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology 1997, 176 (1): 218-23

OBJECTIVE: Our purpose was to review the outcome of pregnancies after external cephalic version at term, in particular the incidence and indications of intrapartum cesarean section after successful external cephalic version.

STUDY DESIGN: A prospective study was performed of 241 term pregnancies that had a total of 243 external cephalic versions. Each case with successful external cephalic version was matched to two control cases with cephalic presentation to compare pregnancy outcome.

RESULTS: External cephalic version was successful in 169 attempts (69.5%), of which 7 (4.1%) reverted to breech presentation. There was one case of abruptio placentae and eight cases (3.3%) of transient fetal bradycardia after the procedure. Among those who had a successful external cephalic version, the incidence of intrapartum cesarean section was 16.9%, which was 2.25 times higher than that of the control group (p < 0.005). This large number of abdominal deliveries was due to a significantly higher incidence of fetal distress and dystocic labor. The incidence of augmentation of labor was also significantly higher in the study group (37.7% vs 27.6%, p < 0.05).

CONCLUSION: Pregnancies after a successful external cephalic version at term are not the same as those with cephalic presentation. They are at higher risk of both dystocic labor and fetal distress and therefore require close intrapartum monitoring.

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