External cephalic version (ECV) is a frequently performed obstetric procedure for fetal breech presentation to avoid cesarean delivery. Neuraxial, intravenous, and inhalational anesthetic techniques have been studied to reduce maternal discomfort caused by the forceful manipulation. This study compares the effects of these anesthetic techniques on ECV and incidence of cesarean delivery.
We conducted a comprehensive literature search for published randomized controlled trials (RCTs) or well-conducted quasi-randomized trials of ECV performed either without anesthesia or under neuraxial, intravenous, or inhalational anesthesia. Pairwise random-effects meta-analyses and network meta-analyses were performed to compare and rank the perinatal outcomes of the 3 anesthetic interventions and no anesthesia control, including the rate of successful version, cesarean delivery, maternal hypotension, nonreassuring fetal response, and adequacy of maternal pain control/satisfaction.
Eighteen RCTs and 1 quasi-randomized trial involving a total of 2296 term parturients with a noncephalic presenting singleton fetus were included. ECV under neuraxial anesthesia had significantly higher odds of successful fetal version compared to control (odds ratio [OR] = 2.59; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.88–3.57), compared to intravenous anesthesia (OR = 2.08; 95% CI, 1.36–3.16), and compared to inhalational anesthesia (OR = 2.30; 95% CI, 1.33–4.00). No association was found between anesthesia interventions and rate of cesarean delivery. Neuraxial anesthesia was associated with higher odds of maternal hypotension (OR = 9.33; 95% CI, 3.14–27.68). Intravenous anesthesia was associated with significantly lower odds of nonreassuring fetal response compared to control (OR = 0.36; 95% CI, 0.16–0.82). Patients received neuraxial anesthesia reported significantly lower visual analog scale (VAS) of procedure-related pain (standardized mean difference [SMD] = −1.61; 95% CI, −1.92 to −1.31). The VAS scores of pain were also significantly lower with intravenous (SMD = −1.61; 95% CI, −1.92 to −1.31) and inhalational (SMD = −1.19; 95% CI, -−1.58 to -0.8) anesthesia. The VAS of patient satisfaction was significantly higher with intravenous anesthesia (SMD = 1.53; 95% CI, 0.64–2.43).
Compared to control, ECV with neuraxial anesthesia had a significantly higher successful rate; however, the odds of maternal hypotension increased significantly. All anesthesia interventions provided significant reduction of procedure-related pain. Intravenous anesthesia had significantly higher score in patient satisfaction and lower odds of nonreassuring fetal response. No evidence indicated that anesthesia interventions were associated with significant decrease in the incidence of cesarean delivery compared to control.