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Procedure for vacuum-assisted operative vaginal delivery

James Greenberg, MD
Section Editor
Charles J Lockwood, MD, MHCM
Deputy Editor
Vanessa A Barss, MD, FACOG


In 1953, the Swedish obstetrician, Tage Malmström, introduced a hollow disc-shaped stainless steel metal cup for vacuum assisted delivery [1]. Suction tubing attached to the dome of the cup and a traction chain passed through the tubing. The Malmström cup quickly became the template for all subsequent vacuum extractor systems [2,3].

By the 1970s, the vacuum extractor virtually replaced forceps for assisted deliveries in northern European countries. However, in many English-speaking countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom, adoption of the vacuum device was slower [2]. Nonetheless, by 1992, the number of vacuum assisted deliveries surpassed the number of forceps deliveries in the United States, and by 2000, approximately two-thirds of operative vaginal deliveries were by vacuum [4].

The technique for vacuum assisted operative delivery will be reviewed here. An overview of methods for operative vaginal delivery, including risks and outcomes, can be found separately. (See "Operative vaginal delivery".)


Indications — A vacuum assisted delivery should only be attempted when a specific obstetric indication is present [5,6]. The three major categories of indication are prolonged second stage of labor, nonreassuring fetal status, and maternal cardiac or neurological disease, but there is no absolute indication.

The indications and prerequisites for operative vaginal delivery are discussed in detail separately. (See "Operative vaginal delivery", section on 'Indications' and "Operative vaginal delivery", section on 'Prerequisites'.)

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Literature review current through: Sep 2017. | This topic last updated: Dec 20, 2016.
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