Symphysiotomy for feto-pelvic disproportion (Protocol)

Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, East London Hospital Complex, University of the Witwatersrand, University of Fort Hare, Eastern Cape Department of Health, Frere and Cecilia Makiwane Hospitals, Private Bag X 9047, East London, Eastern Cape, South Africa, 5200.
Cochrane database of systematic reviews (Online) (Impact Factor: 6.03). 10/2010; 10(10):CD005299. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD005299.pub2
Source: PubMed


Symphysiotomy is an operation to enlarge the capacity of the mother’s pelvis by partially cutting the fibres joining the pubic bones at the front of the pelvis. Usually, when the baby is too big to pass through the pelvis, a caesarean section is performed. If caesarean section is not available, or the mother is too ill for, or refuses, caesarean section or if there is insufficient time to perform caesarean section (for example when the baby’s body has been born feet first, and the head is stuck), symphysiotomy may be performed. Local anaesthetic solution is injected to numb the area, then a small cut is made in the skin with a scalpel, and most of the fibres of the symphysis are cut. As the baby is born, the symphysis separates just enough to allow the baby through. Large observational studies have shown that symphysiotomy is extremely safe with respect to life-threatening complications, but rarely may result in pelvic instability. For this reason, and because the operation is viewed as a ‘second-class’ operation, it is seldom performed today. Health professionals fear censure should they perform a symphysiotomy which leads to complications. Proponents argue that many deaths of mothers and babies from obstructed labour in parts of the world without caesarean section facilities could be prevented if symphysiotomy was used. This review found no randomized trials evaluating symphysiotomy.

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