Effects of spinal anaesthesia versus epidural anaesthesia for caesarean section on postoperative analgesic consumption and postoperative pain

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Background and objectiveRegional anaesthesia is commonly used for elective caesarean section. The aim of this study was to investigate whether there is a positive effect of either spinal or epidural anaesthesia on postoperative analgesic requirements and pain relief.MethodsThe analgesic effect of either spinal or epidural induction of perispinal anaesthesia have been compared in 132 women (ASA I or II) scheduled for elective caesarean section, all having epidural catheterization for perioperative anaesthesia and postoperative analgesia. The patients were randomized into two groups. To achieve a sensory block height to the level of the sixth thoracic dermatome, the parturients received isobaric bupivacaine 0.5% and 5 μg sufentanil intrathecally or ropivacaine 0.75% and 10 μg sufentanil epidurally. For postoperative analgesia, all patients used patient-controlled epidural analgesia at identical settings [bolus of ropivacaine 0.133% (11–15 mg according to patient's height), lock-out time 1 h]. Intraoperative and postoperative pain was recorded using a visual analogue pain score as well as analgesic requirements over the first 24 h after surgery.ResultsOne hundred and twenty-five patients completed the study. There were no differences in patient-controlled epidural analgesic requirements between groups. During surgery, the pain score on a visual analogue scale was more intense with epidural anaesthesia than with spinal anaesthesia (P < 0.05). For the whole 24 h observation period, the area under the curve for pain was lower with spinal anaesthesia (P < 0.0005). At almost all postoperative time points, visual analogue scale scores at rest and during mobilization were lower with spinal anaesthesia (P < 0.05), which was accompanied by less motor blockade and lower frequency of adverse effects. More patients with epidural anaesthesia received supplemental analgesic medication.ConclusionIn parturients undergoing elective caesarean section, postoperative use of epidural ropivacaine via patient-controlled epidural analgesia is similar after spinal and epidural anaesthesia. Spinal anaesthesia is, however, accompanied with less postoperative pain, use of additional analgesics and side-effects.

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