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Keywords:

  • Continuous epidural analgesia;
  • labor pain relief;
  • neonatal evaluation;
  • ropivacaine;
  • bupivacaine;
  • pharmacokinetics.

Background: Ropivacaine has shown less systemic toxicity than bupivacaine, and comparatively low muscle-blocking properties could constitute another advantage when used epidurally for obstetric pain relief. We aimed primarily to compare maternal and foetal drug disposition following continuous epidural infusion of ropivacaine or bupivacaine.

Methods: Twenty-four full-term, nulliparous women were randomized to continuous epidural infusion (10 ml/h) of ropivacaine 2.5 mg/ml or bupivacaine 2.5 mg/ml for labour pain relief in a double-blind, parallel-group design. Maternal blood samples were collected up to 24 h after the end of infusion as well as taken from the umbilical cord at the time of delivery. Sensory and motor block as well as analgesia were assessed. All the women were monitored by cardiotocography and neonatal assessment was performed.

Results: The sensory block was adequate for both drugs. Higher plasma levels (total and free) were seen with ropivacaine, although the infusion with bupivacaine continued on average for about 2 hours longer. However, the ratios between maternal and umbilical blood concentrations were similar for both drugs. Normal neonatal Apgar and neonatal adaptive capacity scores (NACS) were found in both groups.

Conclusion: A continuous epidural infusion of 25 mg/h ropivacaine or bupivacaine both produced good labour pain relief. Higher total and free plasma concentrations were seen for ropivacaine. The ratios between maternal and umbilical plasma levels were similar for both drugs.