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Anesthesia increases success rates of turning breech babies, reduces delivery costs
Date:4/18/2013

STANFORD, Calif. When a baby is in the breech position at the end of pregnancy, obstetricians can sometimes turn the baby head-down to enable a safer vaginal birth. In the past, women were not given anesthesia during the turning procedure, which requires the physician to push on the woman's abdomen while monitoring the baby with ultrasound. But a new study from the Stanford University School of Medicine and Lucile Packard Children's Hospital shows anesthesia is cost-effective because it increases the likelihood the procedure will work.

The turning procedure, called an external cephalic version, or simply a "version," can allow some women with breech babies to avoid a cesarean section and have a head-first vaginal delivery instead. Prior studies have shown that spinal or epidural anesthesia similar to the anesthetic techniques offered during childbirth can help more babies to be turned successfully. Many obstetricians still do not use anesthesia when doing a version.

"We've been looking at reasons physicians don't offer anesthesia during this procedure, and one reason may be that they think it may add extra costs," said the study's lead author, Brendan Carvalho, MD, associate professor of anesthesia at Stanford and chief of obstetric anesthesia at Packard Children's. "But our work shows that it doesn't add significant costs, and most likely reduces overall costs because more women can avoid cesareans."

The study was published online today in Anesthesia & Analgesia.

Because a breech vaginal delivery, in which a baby is born feet-first or bottom-first, is more dangerous for the mother and baby than a head-first vaginal delivery, many breech babies are delivered by cesarean section. But cesarean sections have their own disadvantages, such as increased risk of maternal hemorrhage, more pain and longer recovery times for the mother after birth, as well as higher hospital costs. As part of their effort to reduce cesarean
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Contact: Erin Digitale
digitale@stanford.edu
650-724-9175
Stanford University Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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