Cesarean Section Reduces Perinatal Transmission of Hepatitis B Virus Infection From Hepatitis B Surface Antigen–Positive Women to Their Infants

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Abstract

BACKGROUND & AIMS:

Despite appropriate passive and active immunization, perinatal transmission of hepatitis B virus (HBV) still occurs in 5%–10% of infants born to women with high levels of viremia who test positive for the hepatitis B e antigen (HBeAg). We evaluated the effects of cesarean section delivery on perinatal transmission of HBV from women who tested positive for the hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg).

METHODS:

We analyzed data from 1409 infants born to HBsAg-positive mothers through vaginal delivery (VD) (n = 673), elective caesarean section (ECS) (n = 496), or urgent cesarean section (UCS) (n = 240) who completed appropriate immunization against HBV. The prevention was assumed to have failed for infants who were HBsAg positive when they were 7–12 months old; this information was used to assess transmission rates.

RESULTS:

HBV infection was transmitted to a smaller percentage of infants born by ECS (1.4%) than by VD (3.4%, P < .032) or UCS (4.2%, P < .020). UCS had no effect on vertical transmission, compared with VD (4.2% vs 3.4%, P = .593). Infants born by ECS had a significantly lower rate of vertical transmission than those born by non-ECS (1.4% vs 3.6%, P = .017). Women with HBV DNA levels <1,000,000 copies/mL did not transmit the infection to their infants, regardless of method of delivery. There were no differences in maternal or infant morbidity and mortality among the groups.

CONCLUSIONS:

There is a significantly lower rate of vertical transmission of HBV infection to infants delivered by ECS, compared with those delivered vaginally or by UCS. Elective cesarean sections for HBeAg-positive mothers with pre-delivery levels of HBV DNA ≥1,000,000 copies/mL could reduce vertical transmission.

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