Wide variation in c-section rates not explained by maternal diagnoses

Cesarean (c-section) rates vary 10-fold across hospitals in the United States, but that variability doesn’t appear to be linked to the health and medical conditions of pregnant women, according to a new study by Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and University of Minnesota researchers.

The study was published October 21, 2014 in PLOS Medicine.

SV Subramanian, professor of population health and geography in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, HSPH, and Mariana Arcaya, Yerby Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies, conducted the study along with lead author Katy Kozhimannil, assistant professor, Division of Health Policy and Management, University of Minnesota School of Public Health.

The authors looked at data from nearly 1.5 million live births at 1,373 U.S. hospitals in 46 states between 2009 and 2010. The results showed that the average rate of c-sections varied from 19% to 48%, and appeared to be more related to hospital policy than the mother’s condition.

About 1.3 million cesareans are performed annually, making it the most common inpatient surgery in the United States.

Read the study: Maternal Clinical Diagnoses and Hospital Variation in the Risk of Cesarean Delivery: Analyses of a National US Hospital Discharge Database

View a CBS Minnesota TV interview: Study: Medical Conditions Have Little To Do With Nationwide C-Section Rates

Learn more

Pregnant women’s likelihood of cesarean delivery in Massachusetts linked to choice of hospitals (HSPH press release)