Patient-controlled epidurals cut anaesthetic usage

10 February 2011

Pregnant women who are given control of their epidural during birth use less anaesthetic than women who have drugs administered to them by a nurse.

According to new research conducted at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center in California, patient-controlled epidural analgesia resulted in a 30 per cent reduction in anaesthetic use, on average.

The researchers looked at 270 births in total. Two-thirds of the women received a steady infusion of drugs, while the remaining third were given control over their epidural and administered the drugs themselves.

According to the study, the different approach to administering analgesics did not alter birth duration.

Dr Michael Haydon, one of the authors of the study, said that the study shows that using anaesthetics as a direct response to pain - i.e. allowing patients to control the dose - could be a much better way of making the process of giving birth more comfortable.

He even suggested that the process could be automated using pain sensors.

The research was first suggested by Dr Haydon in February 2008 and presented at the Society for Fetal Maternal Medicine Annual Meeting in San Francisco this week (February 2011).

1 Haydon, Dr Michael. "Patient Controlled Epidural Analgesia Versus Continuous Epidural Infusion: Obstetrical and Neonatal Outcomes".

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