Epidural Anesthesia for Labor in an Ambulatory Patient

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The effectiveness of two epidural analgesic regimens on the ability to ambulate was compared in women in labor by a prospective, randomized, double-blind design. One group of patients received epidural fentanyl, a 75-μg bolus and an infusion of fentanyl 2.5 μg/mL at 15 mL/h (FENT, n = 53). A second group received ultra low-dose bupivacaine (0.04%), epinephrine (1.7 μg/mL), and fentanyl (1.7 μg/mL) (BEF, n = 77), a 15-mL bolus followed by an infusion at 15 mL/h. Adequate analgesia was rapidly obtained in 90.6% of patients in the FENT group and 92.2% of patients in the BEF group (P = 0.89). Seventy percent of patients in the FENT group ambulated versus 68% in the other group. The BEF mixture provided analgesia of longer duration (287 ± 171 min versus 156 ± 72 min, P = 0.0001). The number of patients delivering during administration of only their study drug (without needing higher doses of local anesthetics) was 52% for BEF and 21% for FENT (P = 0.0005). Hip flexion weakness precluding ambulation occurred in 17% (P = 0.002) of BEF patients and orthostatic hypotension in 9% (P = 0.08). Neither problem occurred in FENT patients. Neonatal outcome was similar in both groups. Approximately 70% of women receiving epidural analgesia with fentanyl or ultra low-dose bupivacaine, epinephrine, and fentanyl may ambulate safely during labor.

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