Analgesia/anesthesia for external cephalic version

Carolyn F. Weiniger*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


PURPOSE OF REVIEW: Professional society guidelines recommend that women with breech presentation be delivered surgically due to a higher incidence of fetal risks compared with vaginal delivery. An alternative is attempted external cephalic version, which if successful, enables attempted vaginal delivery. Attitudes towards external cephalic version (ECV) will be considered in this review, along with pain relief methods and their impact on ECV success rates. RECENT FINDINGS: Articles suggest that ECV is infrequently offered, due to both physician and patient factors. Success of ECV is higher in multiparous women, complete breech, posterior placenta, or smaller fetus. Preterm ECV performance does not increase vaginal delivery rates. Neuraxial techniques (spinal or epidural) significantly increase ECV success rates, as do moxibustion and hypnosis. Four reviews summarized studies considering ECV and neuraxial techniques. These reviews suggest that neuraxial techniques using high (surgical) doses of local anesthetic are efficacious compared with control groups not using anesthesia, whereas techniques using low-doses are not. Low-dose versus high-dose neuraxial analgesia/anesthesia has not been directly compared in a single study. Based on currently available data, the rate of cephalic presentation is not increased using neuraxial techniques, but vaginal delivery rates are higher. ECV appears to be a low-risk procedure. SUMMARY: The logistics of routine ECV and provision of optimal neuraxial techniques for successful ECV require additional research. Safety aspects of neuraxial anesthesia for ECV require further investigation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)278-287
Number of pages10
JournalCurrent Opinion in Anaesthesiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Analgesia
  • Anesthesia
  • Breech
  • External cephalic version
  • Success


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