Continuing Education Activity
Uterine inversion is one of the most serious complications of childbirth. It refers to the collapse of the fundus into the uterine cavity. Although it is rare, it carries a high risk of mortality due to hemorrhage and shock. This activity describes the pathophysiology, etiology, presentation, and management of uterine inversion and highlights the interprofessional team's role in caring for patients with this condition.
- Review the etiology of uterine inversion.
- Describe the presentation of a patient with uterine inversion.
- Explain the treatment and management options available for uterine inversion.
- Summarize the need for a well-integrated, interprofessional team approach to improve care for patients with uterine inversion.
Uterine inversion is one of the most serious complications of childbirth. Uterine inversion refers to the collapse of the fundus into the uterine cavity. Although it does not often occur, it carries a high risk of mortality due to hemorrhage and shock.
Excessive umbilical cord traction with a fundal attachment of the placenta and fundal pressure in the setting of a relaxed uterus are the 2 most common proposed aetiologies for uterine inversion.
Other possible risk factors for uterine inversion include rapid labor, invasive placentation, manual removal of placenta, short umbilical cord, use of uterine-relaxing agents, uterine overdistension, fetal macrosomia, nulliparity, placenta previa, connective tissue disorders (Marfan syndrome and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome), and history of uterine inversion in the previous pregnancy. However, in most cases, no risk factors are identified, thus making this condition unpredictable.
Degrees of Uterine Inversion
- Incomplete: Fundus inverts but does not herniate through the level of the internal os
- Complete: The internal lining of the fundus crosses through the cervical os with no palpable fundus abdominally
- Prolapsed: Entire uterus prolapsing through the cervix with the fundus passing out of the introitus
- Acute: Twenty-four hours or less after delivery
- Subacute Longer than 24 hours postpartum)
- Chronic: Longer than 1 month postpartum
A uterine inversion is a rare event, complicating about 1 in 2000 to 1 in 23,000 deliveries. Ironically, most are seen with “low-risk” deliveries. The incidence is 3-times higher in India as compared to the United States. The incidence of uterine inversion has decreased 4-fold after the introduction of active management during the third stage.
Three possible events explain the pathophysiology of acute uterine inversion:
- A portion of the uterine wall prolapses through the dilated cervix or indents forward
- Relaxation of part of the uterine wall
- Simultaneous downward traction on the fundus leading to the uterine inversion
History and Physical
Uterine inversion is a clinical diagnosis and should be suspected when the fundus is not palpable abdominally. The sudden onset of brisk vaginal bleeding leads to hemodynamic instability in the mother. Traditionally, the shock has been considered disproportionate to blood loss, which is possibly mediated by parasympathetic stimulation caused by the stretching of tissues. However, careful evaluation of the need for blood transfusion should be made because blood loss is massive and is greatly underestimated. The other symptoms are mainly severe lower abdominal pain with a strong bearing down sensation, though most women may not be able to complain due to severe shock. It may occur before or after placental detachment.
The diagnosis is often made clinically with a bimanual examination, during which the uterine fundus is palpated in the lower uterine segment or within the vagina. If a clinical examination is equivocal, then an ultrasound can be used to confirm the diagnosis.
Treatment / Management
Once the diagnosis of uterine inversion is made, immediate intervention to control hemorrhage and restore hemodynamic stability in the mother is required because a delay will lead to an increase in the mortality rate appreciably. The following actions should be taken urgently and simultaneously:
- Call for help and call for an anesthesiologist immediately.
- Hemodynamic stability is achieved by a large-bore cannula, and crystalloid and blood are given to combat hypovolemia.
- The recent uterine inversion with the placenta already separated from it may often be replaced by manually pushing up on the fundus with the palm and fingers in the direction of the long axis of the vagina. A delay will render replacement more difficult and also increase the risk of hemorrhage.
- If the placenta is still attached, it is usually not removed until fluids are given, and uterine-relaxing anesthetics, for example, a halogenated inhalation agent, have been administered. Other tocolytic agents such as magnesium sulfate or beta-mimetic and nitroglycerine have been used successfully for uterine relaxation and repositioning. Any portion of the inverted uterus prolapsed beyond the vagina is replaced within the vagina.
- After the placenta is removed, steady pressure with the fist is applied to the inverted fundus in an attempt to push it up into the dilated cervix. Alternatively, two fingers can be extended rigidly to push the center of the fundus upward. Undue force is not applied to avoid perforation of the uterus with the fingertips. This is followed by the administration of uterotonic agents, which help uterine contraction, thereby preventing recurrence of the inversion.
An appropriate antibiotic is administered to prevent infection.
Other options include hydrostatic reduction and surgical correction if manual repositioning is unsuccessful due to a dense constriction ring.
Hydrostatic reduction: If manual reduction alone is not successful, simple hydrostatic pressure may be of great assistance in pushing the fundus back to its normal anatomical position. Warmed sterile saline is infused into the vagina. The clinician’s hand or a silicone ventouse cup is used as a fluid retainer to generate intravaginal hydrostatic pressure and resultant correction of the inversion. The bag of fluid should be elevated about 100 to 150 cm above the vagina to guarantee sufficient pressure for insufflation. It is also effective at preventing blood loss and inhibiting the uterus from inverting again. The possible complications associated with the procedure include infection, failure of the procedure, and saline embolus.
Surgical options include Huntington and Haultain procedures, laparoscopic-assisted repositioning, and cervical incisions with manual uterine repositioning. The Huntington procedure involves laparotomy by gradually pulling on the round ligaments to restore the uterus to its proper position. In case the cervical ring is very tight, repositioning may be more easily achieved by incising the ring posteriorly with a vertical incision along with manual pushing of the fundus. As with manual repositioning, after replacing the fundus, the anesthetic agent used to relax the myometrium is stopped, and uterotonic therapy is administered immediately, followed by repair of uterine incision. If these procedures are performed, then pregnancies in the future will require a cesarean delivery.
If the placenta is not separated from the uterus, then a hysterectomy may be necessary.
The conditions that cause a lump in the vagina and lead to postpartum collapse need to be excluded. These include:
- Severe atony of the uterus
- Uterovaginal prolapse
- Fibroid polyp
- Neurogenic collapse
- Postpartum collapse
- Retained placenta without inversion
Acute cases can lead to hemorrhagic shock, but prompt management usually mitigates long-term sequelae. It is unknown whether the condition affects future pregnancy prospects, but case reports exist of uncomplicated pregnancies.
Complications associated with uterine inversion can be due to the condition (primary) or its management (secondary).
The condition's complications primarily revolve around hemorrhage and its associated risks, including multi-organ damage, shock, Sheehan syndrome, hysterectomy). Without treatment, the condition can result in significant, persistent blood loss and tissue necrosis.
Complications accompanying treatment relate to general anesthesia and blood transfusions.
Deterrence and Patient Education
Women who have experienced uterine inversion need to be counseled that they run the risk of recurrence in subsequent pregnancies.
Enhancing Healthcare Team Outcomes
Uterine inversion is a true obstetric emergency that requires immediate treatment if the patient's life is to be saved. The condition is best managed by an interprofessional team, including ICU nurses. The patient needs immediate resuscitation, patent airway, blood transfusion, and either manual or surgical management.
The outcomes for most patients are guarded.