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Contraindications for external cephalic version in breech position at term: a systematic review


  • Conflict of interest The authors have stated explicitly that there are no conflicts of interest in connection with this article.

  • Please cite this article as: Rosman AN, Guijt A, Vlemmix F, Rijnders M, Mol BWJ, Kok M. Contraindications for external cephalic version in breech position at term: a systematic review. Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand. 2012; 91: DOI:10.1111/aogs.12011.

Ageeth N. Rosman, Academic Medical Center, Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology, Meibergdreef 9, room H4-246, Amsterdam, 1105 AZ, the Netherlands. E-mail:


Objective. External cephalic version (ECV) is a safe and effective intervention that can prevent breech delivery, thus reducing the need for cesarean delivery. It is recommended in national guidelines. These guidelines also mention contraindications for ECV, and thereby restrict the application of ECV. We assessed whether the formulation of these contraindications in guidelines are based on empiric data. Design. Systematic review. Population. Pregnant women with a singleton breech presentation from 34 weeks. Methods. We searched the National Guideline Clearinghouse, the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, MEDLINE (1953–2009), EMBASE (1980–2009), TRIP database (until 2011), NHS (National Health Services, until 2011), Diseases database (until 2011) and NICE guidelines (until 2011) for existing guidelines on ECV and studied the reproducibility of the contraindications stated in the guidelines. Furthermore, we systematically reviewed the literature for contraindications and evidence on these contraindications. Main outcome measures. Contraindications of ECV. Results. We found five guidelines mentioning 18 contraindications, varying from five to 13 per guideline. The contraindications were not reproducible between the guidelines with oligohydramnios as the only contraindication mentioned in all guidelines. The literature search yielded 60 studies reporting on 39 different contraindications, of which we could only assess evidence of six of them. Conclusion. The present study shows that there is no general consensus on the eligibility of patients for ECV. Therefore we propose to limit contraindications for ECV to clear empirical evidence or to those with a clear pathophysiological relevance.