Techniques for assisting difficult delivery at caesarean section

Heather Waterfall, Rosalie Grivell, Jodie Dodd

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

    38 Citations (Scopus)


    Background: Caesarean section involves making an incision in the woman's abdomen and cutting through the uterine muscle. The baby is then delivered through that incision. Difficult caesarean birth may result in injury for the infant or complications for the mother. Methods to assist with delivery include vacuum or forceps extraction or manual delivery utilising fundal pressure. Medication that relaxes the uterus (tocolytic medication) may facilitate the birth of the baby at caesarean section. Delivery of the impacted head after prolonged obstructed labour can be associated with significant maternal and neonatal complication; to facilitate delivery of the head the surgeon may utilise either reverse breech extraction or head pushing. Objectives: To compare the use of tocolysis (routine or selective use) with no use of tocolysis or placebo and to compare different extraction methods at the time of caesarean section for outcomes of infant birth trauma, maternal complications (particularly postpartum haemorrhage requiring blood transfusion), and long-term measures of infant and childhood morbidity. Search methods: We searched the Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth Group's Trials Register (30 September 2015) and reference lists of retrieved studies. Selection criteria: All published, unpublished, and ongoing randomised controlled trials comparing the use of tocolytic agents (routine or selective) at caesarean section versus no use of tocolytic or placebo at caesarean section to facilitate the birth of the baby. Use of instrument versus manual delivery to facilitate birth of the baby. Reverse breech extraction versus head pushing to facilitate delivery of the deeply impacted fetal head. Data collection and analysis: Two review authors independently assessed trials for inclusion and risk of bias, extracted data and checked them for accuracy. Main results: Seven randomised controlled trials, involving 582 women undergoing caesarean section were included in this review. The risk of bias of included trials was variable, with some trials not adequately describing allocation or randomisation. Three comparisons were included. 1. Tocolysis versus no tocolysis A single randomised trial involving 97 women was identified and included in the review. Birth trauma was not reported. There were no cases of any maternal side-effect reported in either the nitroglycerin or the placebo group. No other maternal and infant health outcomes were reported. 2. Reverse breech extraction versus head push for the deeply impacted head at full dilation at caesarean section Four randomised trials involving 357 women were identified and included in the review. The primary outcome of birth trauma was reported by three trials and there was no difference between reverse breech extraction and head push for this rare outcome (three studies, 239 women, risk ratio (RR) 1.55, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.42 to 5.73). Secondary outcomes including endometritis rate (three studies, 285 women, average RR 0.52, 95% CI 0.26 to 1.05, Tau I2 = 0.22, I2 = 56%), extension of uterine incision (four studies, 357 women, average RR 0.23, 95% CI 0.13 to 0.40), mean blood loss (three studies, 298 women, mean difference (MD) -294.92, 95% CI -493.25 to -96.59; I2 = 98%) and neonatal intensive care unit (NICU)/special care nursery (SCN) admission (two studies, 226 babies, average RR 0.53, 95% CI 0.23 to 1.22, Tau I2 = 0.27, I2 = 74%) were decreased with reverse breech extraction. No differences were observed between groups for many of the other secondary outcomes reported (blood loss > 500 mL; blood transfusion; wound infection; mean hospital stay; average Apgar score). There was significant heterogeneity between the trials for the outcomes mean blood loss, operative time and mean hospital stay, making comparison difficult. However the operation duration was significantly shorter for reverse breech extraction, which may correspond with ease of delivery and therefore, the amount of tissue trauma and therefore, significantly less blood loss. Given the heterogeneity, we cannot define the amount of difference in blood loss, operative time or hospital stay however. 3. Instrument (vacuum or forceps) versus manual extraction at elective caesarean section Two randomised trials involving 128 women were identified and included in the review. Only one trial reported maternal and infant health outcomes as prespecified in this review. This trial reported birth trauma as an outcome but there were no instances of birth trauma in either comparison group. There were no differences found in mean fall in haemoglobin (Hb) between groups (one study, 44 women, MD 0.03, 95% CI -0.53 to 0.59), or in uterine incision extension (one study, 44 women, RR 0.70, 95% CI 0.13 to 3.73). Authors' conclusions: There is currently insufficient information available from randomised trials to support or refute the routine or selective use of tocolytic agents or instrument to facilitate infant birth at the time of difficult caesarean section. There is limited evidence that reverse breech extraction may improve maternal and fetal outcomes, though there was no difference in primary outcome of infant birth trauma. Further randomised controlled trials are needed to answer these questions.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article numberCD004944
    Pages (from-to)Art: CD004944
    Number of pages32
    JournalCochrane Database of Systematic Reviews
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 31 Jan 2016


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