AIM: Although term breech presentation is a relatively rare condition (3-5% of all births), it continues to be an important indication for caesarean section and has contributed to its increased use. Risk of complications may be increased for both mother and foetus in such a situation. Vaginal delivery of a breech presenting foetus is complex and may involve many difficulties, so today there is a general consensus that planned caesarean section is better than planned vaginal birth for the foetus in breech presentation at term. External cephalic version is one of the most effective procedures in modern obstetrics. It involves the external manipulation of the foetus from the breech into the cephalic presentation. A successful manoeuvre can decrease costs by avoiding operative deliveries and decreasing maternal morbidity. The aim of the present study is to evaluate the effectiveness of this obstetric manoeuvre to increase the proportion of vertex presentation among foetuses that were formerly in the breech position near term, so as to reduce the caesarean section rate. The safety of the version is also showed. METHODS: From 1999 to 2002, 89 women with foetal breech presentation underwent external cephalic version at the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology of the Brescia University. The gestational age was 36.8+/-0.8 weeks. The following variables have been taken into consideration: breech variety, placental location, foetal back position, parity, amount of amniotic fluid and gestational age. Every attempt was performed with a prior use of an intravenous drip of Ritodrine, and foetal heart rate was monitored continuously with cardiotocogram. RESULTS: The success rate of the procedure was 42.7% (n=38). No maternal or foetal complication or side effects occurred, both during and after the manoeuvre, except a transient foetal bradycardia that resolved spontaneously. Only one spontaneous reversion of the foetus occurred before delivery. Of all the women that underwent a successful version, 84.2% (n=32) had a non complicated vaginal delivery. Five women (15.8%) had a caesarean section. There was no significant interaction between the variables assessed. CONCLUSION: The external cephalic version is a safe and effective manoeuvre reducing the risks of vaginal breech delivery and the rate of caesarean section.
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