A comparative study of continuous and intermittent epidural analgesia for labour and delivery
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This study compares a continuous infusion technique with intermittent "top-up" doses using 0.25 per cent bupivacaine for epidural analgesia for labour and delivery in healthy primiparous patients. Sixty women were randomized into two groups, A (continuous) and B (intermittent). Twenty-eight patients in Group A and 29 in Group B completed the study. We compared the groups with regard to satisfaction with pain relief for both labour and delivery as measured by a Visual Analogue Scale on five occasions during and after parturition. There was no difference between groups at any of the five stages. The difference in pain scores before the epidural and after the epidural was significant for both groups (p less than 0.001). The incidence of missed segments, degrees of motor block, height of sensory block, length of labour and fetal outcome were similar in both groups. Plasma bupivacaine levels were measured in six patients in each group. Mothers in Group A received more drug than those in Group B (p less than 0.01) but plasma bupivacaine levels remained low in the mother and the umbilical cord samples in the sub-set from this group. More women in Group A required outlet forceps (p less than 0.05) whereas mid-forceps and Caesarean section rates were similar in the two groups. Fewer mothers in the infusion group had spontaneous vaginal delivery. We conclude that infusion techniques are as effective as intermittent top-up epidurals and are well received by mothers in labour.
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