Background: Cervical cerclage has been widely used in the past 50 years to prevent early preterm birth and its associated neonatal mortality and morbidity. Results of randomised trials have not generally lent support to this practice, but this absence of benefit may be due to suboptimum patient selection, which was essentially based on obstetric history. A more effective way of identifying the high-risk group for early preterm delivery might be by transvaginal sonographic measurement of cervical length. We undertook a multicentre randomised controlled trial to investigate whether, in women with a short cervix identified by routine transvaginal scanning at 22-24 weeks' gestation, the insertion of a Shirodkar suture reduces early preterm delivery.
Methods: Cervical length was measured in 47?123 women. The cervix was 15 mm or less in 470, and 253 (54%) of these women participated in the study and were randomised to cervical cerclage (127) or to expectant management (126). Primary outcome was the frequency of delivery before 33 completed weeks (231 days) of pregnancy.
Findings: The proportion of preterm delivery before 33 weeks was similar in both groups, 22% (28 of 127) in the cerclage group versus 26% (33 of 126) in the control group (relative risk=0.84, 95% CI 0.54-1.31, p=0.44), with no significant differences in perinatal or maternal morbidity or mortality.
Interpretation: The insertion of a Shirodkar suture in women with a short cervix does not substantially reduce the risk of early preterm delivery. Routine sonographic measurement of cervical length at 22-24 weeks identifies a group at high risk of early preterm birth.