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Transverse fetal lie

Robert A Strauss, MD
Section Editor
Vincenzo Berghella, MD
Deputy Editor
Vanessa A Barss, MD, FACOG


Transverse lie refers to a fetal presentation in which the fetal longitudinal axis lies perpendicular to the long axis of the uterus. It can occur in either of two configurations:

The curvature of the fetal spine is oriented upward (also called "back-up" or dorsosuperior), and the fetal small parts and umbilical cord present at the cervix.

The curvature of the fetal spine is oriented downward (also called "back-down" or dorsoinferior), and the fetal shoulder presents at the cervix (figure 1).

(Note: Lie refers to the long axis of the fetus relative to the longitudinal axis of the uterus; it can be longitudinal, transverse, or oblique. Presentation refers to the fetal part that directly overlies the pelvic inlet; it is usually vertex [head] or breech [buttocks], but can be a shoulder, compound [eg, head and hand], or funic [umbilical cord]. Position is the relationship of a nominated site of the presenting part to a denominating location on the maternal pelvis, eg, right occiput anterior.)


Approximately one in 300 fetuses is in a transverse lie at delivery [1,2]. It is most common early in gestation [3].

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Oct 13, 2017.
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