A Comparison of a Basal Infusion with Automated Mandatory Boluses in Parturient-Controlled Epidural Analgesia During Labor

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The use of parturient-controlled epidural analgesia (PCEA) with a basal infusion is commonly used in laboring women. We compared a novel approach of providing basal intermittent boluses concurrently with PCEA: PCEA plus automated mandatory boluses (PCEA+AMB) versus PCEA plus basal continuous infusion (PCEA+BCI). We hypothesized that epidural local anesthetic consumption would be lower if basal intermittent boluses were used instead of a basal infusion.


We randomized 42 healthy parturients in early labor to receive 0.1% ropivacaine + fentanyl 2 μg/mL either via PCEA+BCI (n = 21,bolus 5 mL, lockout 10 min, basal infusion 5 mL/h) or via PCEA+AMB (n = 21, patient-activated bolus of 5 mL, lockout 10 min, basal automated boluses of 5 mL/h [omitted if a patient-activated bolus was successfully administered in the last 1 h]) after successful induction of combined spinal epidural analgesia.


We found a reduction in the hourly consumption of ropivacaine with PCEA+AMB, i.e., the primary outcome measure (mean = 6.5 mL, sd = 3.4 in the PCEA+AMB group vs 7.5 mL, sd = 2.0 PCEA+BCI group, P = 0.011). A larger proportion of parturients in the PCEA+AMB group did not self-bolus (6/21 vs 1/21 in PCEA+BCI, P = 0.03). The time to the first self-bolus after combined spinal epidural was longer in the PCEA+AMB group (mean survival time 315 min vs 190 min in PCEA+BCI group, P = 0.04 by log rank test). There was no difference in pain scores or side effects.


Our study showed that PCEA+AMB reduced analgesic consumption and could be useful as the mode of maintenance for epidural analgesia.

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