How Virginia Hospital Center is slashing C-section rates

Arlington-based Virginia Hospital Center, which has one of the top 10 C-section rates in the U.S., is working to create a new culture to curb C-section deliveries and decrease patients' risk of infection and complication, according to WVTF.

"Despite all the safety measures we take, compared to vaginal birth [C-sections are] still seven times more likely to result in maternal death than vaginal birth. The complications that go along with surgery — bleeding, infection, risk of placental problems with subsequent pregnancies," said Michael Moxley, MD, medical director of the Virginia Hospital Center physician group OB-GYN hospitalists and vice chairman of patient safety and quality improvement for the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

After the ACOG warned C-section rates were rapidly increasing several years ago, the Virginia Hospital Center was reported to have one of the top 10 C-section across the nation. At its peak, one in three deliveries at the hospital was a C-section.

To decrease these rates, hospital officials started having regular meetings to review the facility's C-sections, raising questions about each C-section delivery and working to create a culture where vaginal deliveries are the norm. The hospital plans to continue these monthly meetings indefinitely, said Miguel Fernandez, MD, OB-GYN hospitalist at Virginia Hospital Center.

Now, the rate of C-sections at the Virginia Hospital Center has gone down to 22 percent — about one in four as opposed to one in three. The rate, which is well below the recommended guideline, is a number Virginia Hospital Center physicians say hospitals nationwide can emulate.

"We put on seat belts, but we don't think about medical safety," Dr. Fernandez said. "And this is a medical safety issue, and we just have to be sure that if you're ending up with major surgery that that major surgery has implications to future pregnancies and complications that it's being done for the right reason."

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