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Impacted foetal head at caesarean section: a national survey of practice and training.

  • Cornthwaite, Katie1, 2
  • Bahl, Rachna3
  • Lenguerrand, Erik2
  • Winter, Cathy1
  • Kingdom, John4
  • Draycott, Tim1
  • 1 Women's Health Department, North Bristol NHS Trust, Bristol, UK.
  • 2 Translational Health Sciences, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK.
  • 3 Women's Health Department, University Hospital Bristol, Bristol, UK.
  • 4 Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Mount Sinai Hospital, Toronto, Canada. , (Canada)
Published Article
Journal of obstetrics and gynaecology : the journal of the Institute of Obstetrics and Gynaecology
Publication Date
Jul 29, 2020
DOI: 10.1080/01443615.2020.1780422
PMID: 32723197


This is a national survey of UK obstetric trainees and consultant labour ward leads designed to investigate the current practice and training for an impacted foetal head (IFH) at Caesarean Section (CS). An anonymous, on-line survey was disseminated to trainees via Postgraduate Schools and RCOG trainee representatives, and to labour ward leads via their national network. Three hundred and forty-five obstetric trainees and consultants responded. The results show that IFH is variably defined and encountered by most UK obstetricians (98% had encountered IFH and 76% had experienced it before full cervical dilatation). There is significant variation in management strategies, although most respondents would use a vaginal push up to assist delivery prior to reverse breech extraction. Responses revealed a paucity of training and lack of confidence in disimpaction techniques: over one in ten respondents had not received any training for IFH and less than half had received instruction in reverse breech extraction.Impact statementWhat is already known on the subject? IFH is an increasingly recognised, technically challenging complication of intrapartum CS. A recent report suggested that birth injuries associated with IFH are now as common as with shoulder dystocia. However, there is no consensus nor guidelines regarding the best practice for management or training.What do the results of this study add? This study demonstrates that IFH is poorly defined and commonly encountered by UK obstetricians. It highlights that IFH is not restricted to CS at full dilatation and reveals the ubiquity of the vaginal push method in UK practice. We found evidence that UK obstetricians are using techniques which have not been investigated and are not recommended for managing an IFH. Moreover, this survey is an eye-opener as to the paucity of training, highlighting that UK obstetric trainees are not adequately prepared to manage this emergency.What are the implications of these findings for clinical practice and/or further research? There is a pressing need to standardise the definition, guidance and training for IFH at CS. Further research should clarify the appropriate techniques for IFH and establish consensus for the best practice. An evidence-based simulation training package, which allows clinicians to learn and practice recognised disimpaction techniques is urgently required.

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