Discontinuing Oxytocin Infusion in the Active Phase of Labor: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

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Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

To evaluate the benefits and harms of discontinuation of oxytocin after the active phase of labor is reached.

DATA SOURCES:

Electronic databases (ie, MEDLINE, Scopus, ClinicalTrials.gov, EMBASE, ScienceDirect, the Cochrane Library at the CENTRAL Register of Controlled Trials, Scielo) were searched from their inception until April 2017.

METHODS OF STUDY SELECTION:

We included all randomized controlled trials comparing discontinuation (ie, intervention group) and continuation (ie, control group) of oxytocin infusion after the active phase of labor is reached, either after induction or augmentation of labor. Discontinuation of oxytocin infusion was defined as discontinuing oxytocin infusion when the active phase of labor was achieved. Continuation of oxytocin infusion was defined as continuing oxytocin infusion until delivery. Only trials in singleton gestations with vertex presentation at term were included. The primary outcome was the incidence of cesarean delivery.

TABULATION, INTEGRATION, AND RESULTS:

Nine randomized controlled trials, including 1,538 singleton gestations, were identified as relevant and included in the meta-analysis. All nine trials included only women undergoing induction of labor. In the discontinuation group, if arrest of labor occurred, usually defined as no cervical dilation in 2 hours or inadequate uterine contractions for 2 hours or more, oxytocin infusion was restarted. Women in the control group had oxytocin continued until delivery usually at the same dose used at the time the active phase was reached. Women who were randomized to have discontinuation of oxytocin infusion after the active phase of labor was reached had a significantly lower risk of cesarean delivery (9.3% compared with 14.7%; relative risk 0.64, 95% CI 0.48–0.87) and of uterine tachysystole (6.2% compared with 13.1%; relative risk 0.53, 95% CI 0.33–0.84) compared with those who were randomized to have continuation of oxytocin infusion until delivery. Discontinuation of oxytocin infusion was associated with an increase in the duration of the active phase of labor (mean difference 27.65 minutes, 95% CI 3.94–51.36).

CONCLUSION:

In singleton gestations with cephalic presentation at term undergoing induction, discontinuation of oxytocin infusion after the active phase of labor at approximately 5 cm is reached reduces the risk of cesarean delivery and of uterine tachysystole compared with continuous oxytocin infusion. Given this evidence, discontinuation of oxytocin infusion once the active stage of labor is established in women being induced should be considered as an alternative management plan.

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