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Objective To assess the efficacy, tolerance, and cost of external version under epidural anaesthesia and beta-mimetic tocolysis after the failure of an initial attempt with tocolysis alone.

Design Prospective open study.

Participants Sixty-eight women with breech presentation at around 36 weeks of gestation and an attempted external cephalic version under salbutamol that failed, who consented to try a second attempt under epidural anaesthesia.

Results The overall success rate under epidural anaesthesia was 39.7% (27/68), and complications occurred in two cases. The total cost of attempting external version was higher than the cost of expectant management.

Conclusions The efficacy of external cephalic version under epidural reduces the rate of caesarean sections associated with breech presentation, but its relative safety remains in question. Moreover, our economic analysis discourages the hope of lowered costs suggested by earlier reports that this technique is more expensive than expectant management, except in institutions with a policy of systematic caesarean sections when version fails.