Prenatal ultrasound diagnosis and outcome of placenta previa accreta after cesarean delivery: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2017 Jul;217(1):27-36. doi: 10.1016/j.ajog.2017.02.050. Epub 2017 Mar 6.


Background: Women with a history of previous cesarean delivery, presenting with a placenta previa, have become the largest group with the highest risk for placenta previa accreta.

Objective: The objective of the study was to evaluate the accuracy of ultrasound imaging in the prenatal diagnosis of placenta accreta and the impact of the depth of villous invasion on management in women presenting with placenta previa or low-lying placenta and with 1 or more prior cesarean deliveries.

Study design and data sources: We searched PubMed, Google Scholar,, and MEDLINE for studies published between 1982 and November 2016.

Study eligibility criteria: Criteria for the study were cohort studies that provided data on previous mode of delivery, placenta previa, or low-lying placenta on prenatal ultrasound imaging and pregnancy outcome. The initial search identified 171 records, of which 5 retrospective and 9 prospective cohort studies were eligible for inclusion in the quantitative analysis.

Study appraisal and synthesis methods: The studies were scored on methodological quality using the Quality Assessment of Diagnostic Accuracy Studies tool.

Results: The 14 cohort studies included 3889 pregnancies presenting with placenta previa or low-lying placenta and 1 or more prior cesarean deliveries screened for placenta accreta. There were 328 cases of placenta previa accreta (8.4%), of which 298 (90.9%) were diagnosed prenatally by ultrasound. The incidence of placenta previa accreta was 4.1% in women with 1 prior cesarean and 13.3% in women with ≥2 previous cesarean deliveries. The pooled performance of ultrasound for the antenatal detection of placenta previa accreta was higher in prospective than retrospective studies, with a diagnostic odds ratios of 228.5 (95% confidence interval, 67.2-776.9) and 80.8 (95% confidence interval, 13.0-501.4), respectively. Only 2 studies provided detailed data on the relationship between the depth of villous invasion and the number of previous cesarean deliveries, independently of the depth of the villous invasion. A cesarean hysterectomy was performed in 208 of 232 cases (89.7%) for which detailed data on management were available. Positive correlations were found in the largest prospective studies between the cumulative rates of the more invasive forms of accreta placentation and the sensitivity and specificity of ultrasound imaging but not with diagnostic odds ratio values. We found no data on the ultrasound screening of placenta accreta at the routine midtrimester ultrasound examination from the nonexpert ultrasound units.

Conclusion: Planning individual management for delivery is possible only with accurate evaluation of prenatal risk of accreta placentation in women presenting with a low-lying placenta/previa and a history of prior cesarean delivery. Ultrasound is highly sensitive and specific in the prenatal diagnosis of accreta placentation when performed by skilled operators. Developing a prenatal screening protocol is now essential to further improve the outcome of this increasingly more common major obstetric complication.

Keywords: cesarean delivery; placenta accreta; placenta previa; prenatal diagnosis; ultrasound.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Cesarean Section / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hysterectomy
  • Placenta Accreta / diagnostic imaging*
  • Placenta Accreta / epidemiology
  • Placenta Accreta / pathology
  • Placenta Previa / diagnostic imaging*
  • Placenta Previa / epidemiology
  • Placenta Previa / pathology
  • Placentation
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Outcome*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Ultrasonography, Prenatal*