Revisiting the short cervix detected by transvaginal ultrasound in the second trimester: why cerclage therapy may not help

Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2001 Nov;185(5):1098-105. doi: 10.1067/mob.2001.118163.


Objective: The purpose of this study was to identify the risk factors that are associated with increased neonatal morbidity in patients who were treated for sonographic evidence of internal os dilation and distal cervical shortening during the second trimester.

Study design: From May 1998 to June 2000 patients between 16 and 24 weeks of gestation with the following sonographic criteria were randomly assigned to McDonald cerclage or no cerclage: internal os dilation and either membrane prolapse into the endocervical canal at least 25% of the total cervical length but not beyond the external os or a shortened distal cervix <2.5 cm. Before randomization, all patients were treated identically with an amniocentesis, multiple urogenital cultures, and therapy with indomethacin and clindamycin for 48 to 72 hours. Except for the cerclage, all patients were treated identically after randomization. Multiple variables of perinatal outcome were analyzed. A regression model with gestational age at delivery as the dependent variable was constructed and repeated with neonatal morbidity as the dependent variable. This model was applied to 3 populations: the cerclage group, the no cerclage group, and both groups combined.

Results: Of the 135 patients, 20 patients declined randomization, and 2 patients were diagnosed with acute chorioamnionitis. Of the 113 patients remaining, 55 patients were randomly assigned to the cerclage group, and 58 patients were randomly assigned to the no cerclage group. There were 8 rescue cerclage procedures (4 in each group). Regression analysis showed that readmission for preterm labor, chorioamnionitis, and abruption were consistently associated with early gestational age at delivery and increased morbidity. Cerclage did not affect perinatal outcome.

Conclusion: The sonographic findings of second trimester internal os dilation, membrane prolapse, and distal cervical shortening likely represent a common pathway of several pathophysiologic processes. Use of cerclage does not alter any perinatal outcome variables. Increased neonatal morbidity in these patients appears to be associated with subclinical infection, preterm labor, and abruption.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Abruptio Placentae / etiology
  • Cerclage, Cervical* / adverse effects
  • Cervix Uteri / diagnostic imaging*
  • Cervix Uteri / surgery*
  • Female
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Newborn, Diseases / epidemiology
  • Infant, Newborn, Diseases / etiology
  • Infections / etiology
  • Labor, Obstetric
  • Morbidity
  • Obstetric Labor, Premature / etiology
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Trimester, Second
  • Treatment Failure
  • Ultrasonography