BACKGROUND: Clinically, once a woman has been identified as being at risk of spontaneous preterm birth (sPTB) due to a short cervical length, a decision regarding prophylactic treatment must be made. Three interventions have the potential to improve outcomes: cervical cerclage (stitch), vaginal progesterone and cervical pessary. Each has been shown to have similar benefit in reduction of sPTB, but there have been no randomised control trials (RCTs) to compare them.
METHODS: This open label multi-centre UK RCT trial, will evaluate whether the three interventions are equally efficacious to prevent premature birth in women who develop a short cervix (<25 mm on transvaginal ultrasound). Participants will be asymptomatic and between 14(+0) and 23(+6) weeks' gestation in singleton pregnancies. Eligible women will be randomised to cervical cerclage, Arabin pessary or vaginal progesterone (200 mg once daily) (n = 170 women per group). The obstetric endpoints are premature birth rate <37 weeks' of gestation (primary), 34 weeks and 30 weeks (secondary outcomes) and short-term neonatal outcomes (a composite of death and major morbidity). It will also explore whether intervention success can be predicted by pre-intervention biomarker status.
DISCUSSION: Preterm birth is the leading cause of perinatal morbidity and mortality and a short cervix is a useful way of identifying those most at risk. However, best management of these women has presented a clinical conundrum for decades. Given the promise offered by cerclage, Arabin pessary and vaginal progesterone for prevention of preterm birth in individual trials, direct comparison of these prophylactic interventions is now essential to establish whether one treatment is superior. If, as we hypothesise, the three interventions are equally efficacious, this study will empower women to make a choice of treatments based on personal preference and quality of life issues also explored by the study. Our exploratory analysis into whether the response to intervention is related to the pre-intervention biomarker status further our understanding of the pathophysiology of spontaneous preterm birth and help focus future research questions.
TRIAL REGISTRATION: EudraCT Number: 2015-000456-15 . Registered 11th March 2015.