Objective: Preterm labor is one of the major causes of concern for level I and II obstetricians. The purpose of this study was to determine the incidence of in utero transfer performed for preterm labor. We also aimed to evaluate the algorithm we used in case of call for preterm labor. This algorithm allowed us to study the rate of endovaginal sonography use prior to in utero transfer, to calculate its predictive value and to evaluate the risk of delivery during transfer.
Patients and method: We conducted an 8-months prospective study of all calls for preterm labor received at a regional call center in France (EU). All obstetrical data were entered in a computerized anonymous database. Three months after the first call midwives collected data from the receiving hospital.
Results: Calls for preterm labor account for 40% of calls for in utero transfer. Two hundred and sixty-five calls have been received for preterm labor; among them 50 cases were associated with a preterm rupture of membrane, a maternal or fetal pathology and 14 cases were lost for follow-up. Those 64 cases were excluded leaving 201 cases for analysis. Twenty-eight had a cervix dilated 4 cm, or more, while 173 had a cervix dilated less than 4 cm. Fifty percent of woman that had a cervical dilatation of 4 cm or more delivered more than 4 h after the call. Among the 173 patients that had a cervix dilated less than 4 cm, 71% had not delivered 7 days after the hotline call and 26% had an endovaginal ultrasonography performed before the transfer. None of the women that had a cervical length longer than 27 mm delivered in the 7 following days. None of the 176 women that were transferred delivered during the transfer.
Discussion and conclusion: In utero transfer for preterm labor is the leading cause of in utero transfer. Endovaginal ultrasonography prior to transfer should be performed in order to avoid unnecessary transfer. Women who have a preterm labor with a cervical dilatation of 4 cm or more are not an absolute contra-indication to in utero transfer. In those cases the transfer indication should be discussed on a case-to-case basis including the actual term and the distance between hospitals.