Labor Analgesia Onset With Dural Puncture Epidural Versus Traditional Epidural Using a 26-Gauge Whitacre Needle and 0.125% Bupivacaine Bolus: A Randomized Clinical Trial

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Lumbar epidurals (LEs) provide excellent analgesia. Combined spinal epidural and dural puncture epidural (DPE) are 2 techniques to expedite neuraxial analgesia onset. In DPE, dura is punctured but medication is not administered in the cerebrospinal fluid. Expedited analgesia onset has been demonstrated with DPE, using 0.25% bupivacaine; however, this concentration may impede an unassisted vaginal birth and is not currently used for induction and maintenance of labor analgesia. The primary goal of this study was to compare the percentage of patients who achieved adequate labor analgesia following DPE or LE with an epidural bolus of 0.125% bupivacaine. Adequate labor analgesia was defined as Visual Analog Scale (VAS) measurement ≤ 10 mm on a 100-mm scale during active contractions, measured 10 minutes after epidural bolus initiation.


Laboring patients were randomly assigned to receive LE or DPE. Immediately before epidural placement, subjects marked a VAS score during an active contraction and parturients with VAS < 50 mm were excluded. The epidural space was identified by a loss of resistance technique to saline (17G Tuohy needle [Arrow International, Inc, Redding, PA]). In the DPE group, dura was punctured with a 26G Whitacre needle (Arrow International, Inc). In all participants, a 19G epidural catheter (Arrow International, Inc) was inserted. An epidural bolus was then administered over 3 minutes (12 mL, 0.125% bupivacaine, 50 μg fentanyl) followed by infusion (0.1% bupivacaine, 2 μg/mL fentanyl). After initiation of epidural bolus (time zero), VAS measurements were collected at 2-minute intervals for up to 20 minutes. Median time to achieve adequate analgesia by treatment group was assessed by Kaplan-Meier analysis. Time to achieving adequate analgesia was evaluated using a Cox regression model. All analyses were conducted in SAS version 9.4. (SAS Institute, Cary, NC)


Data were analyzed from 80 participants (40 per group). Adequate analgesia at 10 minutes did not differ by neuraxial technique (DPE = 55.3% vs LE = 44.7%; P= .256). However, parturients receiving DPE had shorter median times to adequate analgesia (median [95% confidence interval], 8 minutes [6–10] vs 10 minutes [8–14]) and a 67% increase in the relative risk of achieving adequate analgesia compared to LE (relative risk = 1.67; 95% confidence interval, 1.02–2.64; P= .042).


Although the percentage of parturients achieving adequate labor analgesia at 10 minutes after epidural bolus did not differ by technique, DPE was associated with faster time to VAS ≤ 10 mm compared with LE.

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