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Patient-controlled epidural technique improves analgesia for labor but increases cesarean delivery rate compared with the intermittent bolus technique

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We tested the hypothesis that patient-controlled epidural analgesia for labor (PCEA) provides better analgesia and satisfaction than the intermittent bolus technique (bolus) without affecting the mode of delivery. Methods: 

We randomized 187 parturients to receive labor analgesia using either the PCEA or bolus technique. The PCEA group received a starting bolus of 14 mg of bupivacaine and 60 µg of fentanyl in a 15-ml volume, followed by a background infusion (bupivacaine 0.08% and fentanyl 2 µg ml−1) 5 ml h−1 with a 5-ml bolus and 15-min lock-out interval. The bolus group received boluses of 20 mg of bupivacaine and 75 µg of fentanyl in a 15-ml volume. Results: 

Parturients in the PCEA group had significantly (P < 0.05–0.01) less pain during the first and second stages of labor. There was no difference in the spontaneous delivery rate between the groups, but the cesarean delivery rate was significantly (P < 0.05) higher (16.3% vs. 6.7%) in the PCEA group than in the bolus group. Bupivacaine consumption was significantly (P < 0.01) higher (11.2 mg h−1 vs. 9.6 mg h−1) and the second stage of labor was significantly (P < 0.01) longer (70 min vs. 54 min) in the PCEA group than in the bolus group. Patient satisfaction was equally good in both groups. Conclusion: 

The PCEA technique provided better pain relief. This was associated with higher bupivacaine consumption, prolongation of the second stage of labor, and an increased rate of cesarean section.
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Keywords: Bupivacaine; fentanyl; mode of delivery; patient-controlled epidural analgesia

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Anesthesia and Intensive Care and 2: Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Helsinki University Central Hospital, Helsinki, Finland

Publication date: 2004-07-01

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