Epidural Butorphanol Does Not Reduce Side Effects from Epidural Morphine After Cesarean Birth

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In this prospective, double-blind, randomized study of women undergoing elective cesarean birth, the hypothesis that epidural butorphanol in various doses could effectively reduce or eliminate the side effects caused by epidural morphine was tested. Patients were randomly assigned to one of four groups. All received a standard epidural anesthetic and 20 min after delivery each received 3 mg epidural morphine with either 1 mg butorphanol (Group A), 2 mg butorphanol (Group B), 3 mg butorphanol (Group C), or 3 mL normal saline (Group D). Patient evaluations were made preoperatively and 2, 8, and 24 h after delivery. These consisted of visual analog scores for pain, satisfaction, nausea, itch, and somnolence. At each evaluation, a CO2 challenge test, using portable equipment, was performed. Data from 71 patients were analyzed and all four groups were comparable in terms of age, height, weight, level of sensory block, and volume of local anesthetic used. There were no significant differences among groups in terms of pain, satisfaction, nausea, or pruritus. Groups A, B, and C had significantly higher somnolence scores at 8 h compared to Group D (P < 0.001). There were no significant differences among groups in CO2 challenge test data at any point during the study, but overall a reduced sensitivity to CO2 after opioid administration was observed across all groups. There were no clinically significant incidents of respiratory depression. Epidural butorphanol, in doses of 1–3 mg, failed to reduce the side effects from 3 mg epidural morphine given after cesarean birth. Patients who received epidural butorphanol reported significantly higher levels of somnolence.

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