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Canadian Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology
Volume 28 (2014), Issue 8, Pages 439-444

Caesarean Section to Prevent Transmission of Hepatitis B: A Meta-Analysis

Matthew S Chang,1 Sravanya Gavini,1 Priscila C Andrade,2 and Julia McNabb-Baltar1

1Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Endoscopy, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
2Laboratory of Neuromodulation & Center for Clinical Research Learning, Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Received 26 March 2014; Accepted 25 June 2014

Copyright © 2014 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


BACKGROUND: Vertical transmission of hepatitis B virus (HBV) occurs in up to 10% to 20% of births.

OBJECTIVE: To assess whether Caesarean section, compared with vaginal delivery, prevents HBV transmission.

METHODS: A systematic review and meta-analysis was conducted. Two investigators independently searched PubMed, EMBASE and other databases for relevant studies published between 1988 and 2013. A manual search of relevant topics and major conferences for abstracts was also conducted. Randomized trials, cohort and case-control studies assessing the effect of delivery mode on vertical transmission of HBV were included. Studies assessing antiviral therapy and patients with coinfection were excluded. The primary outcome was HBV transmission rates according to delivery method.

RESULTS: Of the 430 studies identified, 10 were included. Caesarean section decreased the odds of HBV transmission by 38% compared with vaginal delivery (OR 0.62 [95% CI 0.40 to 0.98]; P=0.04) based on a random-effects model. Significant heterogeneity among studies was found (I2=63%; P=0.003), which was largely explained by variation in hepatitis B immune globulin (HBIG) administration. Meta-regression showed a significant linear association between the percentage of infants receiving HBIG per study and the log OR (P=0.005), with the least benefit observed in studies with 100% HBIG administration. Subgroup analysis of hepatitis B e-antigen-positive women who underwent Caesarean section did not show a significant reduction in vertical transmission.

DISCUSSION: Caesarean section may protect against HBV transmission; however, convincing benefit could not be demonstrated due to significant study heterogeneity from variable HBIG administration, highlighting the importance of HBIG in HBV prevention.

CONCLUSION: More high-quality studies are needed before any recommendations can be made.