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Am J Obstet Gynecol. 1983 May 1;146(1):34-40.

Randomized management of the nonfrank breech presentation at term: a preliminary report.


Cesarean section has become the standard management used by many clinicians for breech presentation in labor. Proof of the superiority of routine cesarean section has been largely circumstantial. Concern over rising cesarean section rates has led to renewed interest in possible alternatives. Protocols have been developed to select which patients may be allowed a trial of labor with frank breech presentation at term. We undertook a prospective clinical trial comparing elective cesarean section with a selective management protocol for the nonfrank breech presentation at term. One hundred five patients with nonfrank breech presentations at term in labor were studied. Seventy (67%) were randomized to a trial of labor and 35 (33%) to elective cesarean section. Of the patients allowed a trial of labor, 31 (44%) were delivered vaginally, and 39 (56%) required cesarean section. The largest single cause of a "failed" trial of labor was inadequate pelvic dimensions on x-ray pelvimetry (23 patients, 59%). Neonatal morbidity assessed by Apgar scores, cord gases, birth injury, and hospital stay was not different for those delivered vaginally or by cesarean section. Maternal morbidity in terms of febrile morbidity, blood transfusion, wound infections, and hospital stay was significantly greater among women delivered by cesarean section. Two of three neonatal deaths occurred in infants with major congenital anomalies. The third infant, apparently normal, died after vaginal delivery. Extensive evaluation suggests the death was attributable to inadequate resuscitation. We conclude that the use of a selective management protocol under controlled conditions is a reasonable alternative to elective cesarean section. Approximately one half of patients allowed a trial of labor may be expected to deliver vaginally with neonatal morbidity comparable to that seen with cesarean section.

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