C-section delivery rates vary widely in US

The rate of cesarean-section deliveries occurs in wide variation in U.S. hospitals, shows a University of Minnesota study.

Researchers report a tenfold variation in rates ranging from a low of 7 percent to a high of 70 percent among nearly 600 U.S. hospitals they studied. Each hospital had at least 100 births in 2009. The average cesarean rate was nearly 33 percent.

C-section deliveries can save the life of a mother and her baby, but they also carry higher risks of infection, re-hospitalization and other complications.

Reducing the number of C-sections and repeat procedures is a major public health goal in the U.S., study author Katy Kozhimannil said.

"I think one of the ways that we can move toward that goal as a country is by targeting hospitals with particularly high cesarean delivery rates to try to help them ensure that the right care is going to the right women at the right time."

The study did not determine reasons for the variation from hospital to hospital.

"It was quite surprising to find hospitals with rates that high. It just, sort of as a gut check, it feels quite high to see rates at that level," Kozhimannil said. "In fact we had two hospitals in our sample with rates of 70 percent. It wasn't just an isolated occurrence."

The findings are published in the latest issue of the health policy journal Health Affairs.

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