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Changes in Cesarean Delivery in an Italian University Hospital, 1982–1996: A Comparison with the National Trend

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Background: The cesarean delivery rate in Italy rose dramatically from the mid-1970s to 1996, accounting for 22.4 percent of all deliveries in the last national survey. The aim of this study was to analyze the results of the clinical practice of a new staff in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology of a university hospital, with particular focus on the application of common protocols. The rates of cesarean sections and perinatal mortality were chosen as parameters for good clinical practice and were compared with national data. Methods: A new staff assumed the obstetric management at the hospital in 1982. Standardized protocols were implemented for all major indications for cesarean delivery (repeat cesarean section, dystocia, breech presentation, fetal distress). Results: The rate of cesarean deliveries decreased from 26.4 to 12 percent and remained stable during the past decade. Other operative modalities were used for approximately 1.5 percent of deliveries. The perinatal mortality decreased to 0.5 percent in 1994. To confirm whether or not staff followed common protocols, a review of three years (1994–1996) showed a fairly stable frequency of cesarean sections on different days and nights during the week, confirming the homogeneity of obstetric management. Conclusions: Our data showed that, irrespective of the local situation and of the risks of litigation, a significant reduction of cesarean sections can be achieved in a tertiary care center without detrimental effects on newborns, especially in a teaching hospital where residents are trained. Despite national trends suggesting the contrary, some women may choose to deliver in an obstetrics department with better care and fewer operative procedures than in hospitals with higher cesarean delivery rates.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 1999


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