Combined spinal-epidural vs. spinal anaesthesia for caesarean section: meta-analysis and trial-sequential analysis.
Combined spinal-epidural and single-shot spinal anaesthesia are both used for caesarean section. It has been claimed in individual trials that combined spinal-epidural is associated with higher sensory spread and greater cardiovascular stability. We set out to gather all available evidence. We performed: a systematic literature search to identify randomised controlled trials comparing combined spinal-epidural with spinal anaesthesia for caesarean section: conventional meta-analysis; trial-sequential analysis; and assessment of trial quality using the Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development, and Evaluation (GRADE) system. Fifteen trials with high heterogeneity, including 1015 patients, were analysed. There was no significant difference between combined spinal-epidural and spinal anaesthesia for our primary outcomes maximum sensory height and vasopressor use (mg ephedrine equivalents). However, trial-sequential analysis suggested insufficient data and the GRADE scores showed 'very low' quality of evidence for these outcomes. The secondary outcomes hypotension, time for sensory block to recede to the level of T10, and the combined outcome of nausea and vomiting, did not differ significantly between the interventions. The block times were statistically significantly longer for combined spinal-epidural in individual trials, but only one trial showed a clinically meaningful difference (11 min). Based on this analysis, and taking into consideration all comparisons irrespective of whether drugs had been applied via the epidural route, there is not enough evidence to postulate any advantage compared with the spinal technique. Future analyses and studies need to examine the potential advantages of the combined spinal-epidural technique by using the epidural route intra- and/or postoperatively.