External Cephalic Version

In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2024 Jan.


The global cesarean section rate has increased from approximately 23% to 34% in the past decade. Fetal malpresentation is now the third-most common indication for cesarean delivery, encompassing nearly 17% of cases. Almost one-fourth of all fetuses are in a breech presentation at 28 weeks gestational age; this number decreases to between 3% and 4% at term. In current clinical practice, most pregnancies with a breech fetus are delivered by cesarean section.

Individual and institutional efforts are increasing to reduce the overall cesarean delivery rate, particularly for nulliparous patients with term, singleton, and vertex gestations. An alternative to cesarean delivery for fetal malpresentation at term is an external cephalic version (ECV), a procedure to correct fetal malpresentation. ECV may be indicated when the fetus is breech or in an oblique or transverse lie after 37 0/7 weeks gestation. The overall success rate for ECV approaches 60%, is cost-effective, and can lead to decreased cesarean delivery rates. ECV is of particular importance in resource-poor environments, where patients may have limited access to medical services during labor and delivery or where cesarean delivery is unavailable or unsafe.

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  • Study Guide