Objective: To determine the incidence of iatrogenic respiratory distress syndrome (RDS) following elective repeat cesarean delivery and to identify whether it was associated with departures from accepted management guidelines.
Methods: Between January 1986 and March 1991, there were 23,125 deliveries at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, of which 1207 were repeat cesarean births without labor. During this period, 18 neonates of 37 weeks' gestation or greater or 2500 g or greater who were delivered by elective repeat cesarean were admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) for respiratory difficulties.
Results: Five of the 18 neonates admitted to the NICU with respiratory difficulty following elective repeat cesarean delivery met the criteria for RDS. This represents an incidence of 0.41% (five of 1207), or one case of RDS for every 241 repeat cesarean deliveries without labor. Four of the five neonates required mechanical ventilation for an average of 6.8 days. The average NICU stay was 11.2 days. Complications included pneumothorax (one) and pulmonary hemorrhage (one). Departures from accepted management guidelines included a discrepancy between ultrasound and menstrual dates (two), no confirmation of menstrual dates (one), and delivery before 39 weeks' gestation (two).
Conclusion: Iatrogenic RDS continues to occur in the setting of elective repeat cesarean delivery and is associated with a failure to adhere to clinical protocols.