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Utility of follow-up cervical length screening in low-risk women with a cervical length of 26 to 29 mm

Published:February 26, 2021DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ajog.2021.02.027

      Background

      In women with a previous preterm birth, a protocol for serial cervical length screening has been studied and recommended for the identification and treatment of a short cervix. Cervical length screening along with vaginal progesterone has been suggested for low-risk women with singleton pregnancies to treat a short cervix and reduce preterm birth. However, specific protocols for single vs serial ultrasound measuring cervical length in this population are not established. Cost-effectiveness of universal cervical length screening depends on the cost of screening; follow-up of borderline measurements can contribute to increased costs with uncertain benefit.

      Objective

      This study aimed to determine the utility of follow-up cervical length screening in otherwise low-risk women with singleton pregnancies with a midtrimester cervical length measurement of 26 to 29 mm through the assessment of the rate of short cervix (≤25 mm) on follow-up ultrasound and subsequent delivery outcomes.

      Study Design

      This was a 2-year retrospective cohort study at a single urban institution of women with singleton pregnancies with no previous spontaneous preterm birth and an initial transvaginal ultrasound cervical length measurement of 26 to 29 mm identified during universal cervical length screening at time of anatomy ultrasound (18 0/7 to 22 6/7 weeks’ gestation). The primary outcome was the rate of short cervix (defined as ≤25 mm on transvaginal ultrasound) on follow-up ultrasound at <24 weeks’ gestation. Secondary outcomes included the rate of spontaneous preterm birth (<37 and <34 weeks’ gestation).

      Results

      During the study period, there were 2801 women with singleton pregnancies at 18 0/7 to 22 6/7 weeks’ gestation with transvaginal ultrasound cervical length screening at time of anatomy scan. Among those women, 201 had a cervical length of 26 of 29 mm, and 184 (7%) had no previous spontaneous preterm birth and were included in the study. Furthermore, 144 women (78%) had a follow-up cervical length completed before 24 weeks’ gestation. The mean follow-up interval was 1.5±0.6 weeks. Overall, the percentage of short cervix (≤25 mm) on follow-up was 15% (n=21). Baseline characteristics were similar, but the initial cervical length measurement was shorter in women who subsequently developed a short cervix (26.7±0.8 vs 27.8±1.0; P<.01). Delivery outcomes were available for 126 patients. The rate of spontaneous preterm birth at <37 weeks’ gestation in women with an initial cervical length 26 to 29 mm and subsequent short cervix was significantly higher than the rate of spontaneous preterm birth in a historical cohort of low risk women with an initial cervical length >25 mm (16% vs 3%; P=.03). The rate of spontaneous preterm birth at <34 weeks’ gestation in women with a subsequent short cervix was 11% (2 of 19).

      Conclusion

      Here, approximately 15% of low-risk women with singleton pregnancies with a midtrimester cervical length measurement of 26 to 29 mm will experience cervical shortening of ≤25 mm before 24 weeks’ gestation. Compared to women with singleton pregnancies without a history of preterm birth, the rate of spontaneous preterm birth (16%) in women with an initial cervical length of 26 to 29 mm and a subsequent cervical shortening of ≤25 mm is significantly higher. A total of 111 follow-up ultrasounds measuring cervical length would be required to prevent 1 early preterm birth at <34 weeks’ gestation.

      Key words

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