Perinatal assessment of complex cesarean delivery: beyond placenta accreta spectrum

Eric Jauniaux, Karin A. Fox, Brett Einerson, Ahmed M. Hussein, Jonathan L. Hecht, Robert M. Silver

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Multiple cesarean deliveries are known to be associated with long-term postoperative consequences because of a permanent defect of the lower uterine segment wall and the development of thick pelvic adhesions. Patients with a history of multiple cesarean deliveries often present with large cesarean scar defects and are at heightened risk in subsequent pregnancies of cesarean scar ectopic pregnancy, uterine rupture, low-lying placenta or placenta previa, and placenta previa accreta. Moreover, large cesarean scar defects will lead to progressive dehiscence of the lower uterine segment with the inability to effectively reapproximate hysterotomy edge and repair at birth. Major remodeling of the lower uterine segment associated with true placenta accreta spectrum at birth, whereby the placenta becomes inseparable from the uterine wall, increases the rates of perinatal morbidity and mortality, especially when undiagnosed before delivery. Ultrasound imaging is currently not routinely used to evaluate the surgical risks of patients with a history of multiple cesarean deliveries, beyond the risk assessment of placenta accreta spectrum. Independent of accreta placentation, a placenta previa under a scarred, thinned partially disrupted lower uterine segment, covered by thick adhesions with the posterior wall of the bladder, poses a surgical risk and requires fine dissection and surgical expertise; however, data on the use of ultrasound to evaluate uterine remodeling and adhesions between the uterus and other pelvic organs are scarce. In particular, transvaginal sonography has been underused, including in patients with a high probability of placenta accreta spectrum at birth. Based on the best available knowledge, we discuss the role of ultrasound imaging in identifying the signs suggestive of major remodeling of the lower uterine segment and in mapping the changes in the uterine wall and pelvis, to enable the surgical team to prepare for all different types of complex cesarean deliveries. The need for postnatal confirmation of the prenatal ultrasound findings for all patients with a history of multiple cesarean deliveries, regardless of the diagnosis of placenta previa and placenta accreta spectrum, is discussed. We propose an ultrasound imaging protocol and a classification of the level of surgical difficulty at elective cesarean delivery to stimulate further research toward the validation of ultrasound signs by which these signs may be applied to improve surgical outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)129-139
Number of pages11
JournalAmerican journal of obstetrics and gynecology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • increta
  • placenta accreta
  • placenta accreta spectrum
  • preoperative evaluation
  • transvaginal sonography
  • ultrasound imaging

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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