Epidural analgesia is generally accepted as the most effective form of pain relief during labor. Remifentanil patient-controlled IV analgesia (PCIA), which is less invasive than epidural analgesia, may be an attractive alternative. In this meta-analysis, we compared the efficacy and safety of the 2 analgesic techniques for labor pain.METHODS:
Databases of PubMed, EMBASE, and Cochrane Library were searched independently by 2 reviewers to retrieve eligible randomized controlled clinical trials. The primary end points were pain scores at 1 and 2 hours, and the secondary end points were nausea, vomiting, pruritus, and umbilical artery pH values. Mean difference (MD) or risk ratio with 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were calculated for each end point. GRADE profiler was applied to assess the quality of evidence.RESULTS:
Five eligible trials were retrieved and analyzed. We found that parturients with remifentanil PCIA had higher visual analog scale (10-cm scale) pain scores than those who received epidural analgesia at 1 hour (MD = 1.9 cm; 95% CI, 0.5–3.3; I2 = 94%) and 2 hours (MD = 3.0 cm; 95% CI, 0.7–5.2; I2 = 89%) after initiation of analgesia. There was no statistical difference between epidural analgesia and remifentanil PCIA in the incidence of nausea, vomiting, pruritus, or umbilical artery pH values. However, the CIs are quite wide and contain clinically significant differences. According to GRADE profiler, most end points had moderate quality except that pain scores at 1 hour were of low quality.CONCLUSIONS:
This meta-analysis suggests that remifentanil PCIA is not superior to epidural analgesia in analgesic efficacy during labor. Given the wide CIs of the pooled results for secondary maternal and neonatal outcomes, definite conclusions cannot be drawn for those outcomes. Further studies are still warranted to validate these conclusions.