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Anesth Analg. 2001 Oct;93(4):986-90.

Epidural labor analgesia and neonatal sepsis evaluation rate: a quality improvement study.

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Department of Anesthesiology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Magee-Women's Hospital, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15213, USA.


Labor epidural analgesia (LEA) is allegedly associated with maternal fever and an increase in the newborn sepsis work-up (SWU) rate. In this study, we evaluated whether LEA causes an increase in the SWU rate compared with a Control group given parenteral narcotics for labor pain. Maternal and neonatal data were collected prospectively for a continuous quality improvement database. Odds ratios were calculated by using multiple logistic regression for various triggers for SWU in the neonate. Of the 1177 primiparous women and their neonates studied, 922 women received LEA and 255 women received parenteral analgesics. A small but statistically significant increase in maternal and neonatal temperatures occurred in parturients receiving LEA. The SWU rates were 7.5% in the LEA group and 9.4% in the Controls (not significant). Triggers identified for SWU were birth weight (odds ratio = 116, P = 0.000), gestational age (odds ratio = 86.6, P = 0.000), meconium aspiration and respiratory distress requiring intubation (odds ratio = 8.6, P = 0.000), hypothermia at birth (odds ratio = 7.1, P = 0.001), maternal Group B beta-hemolytic streptococcal colonization (odds ratio = 6, P = 0.000), and preeclampsia or hypertension (odds ratio = 3.5, P = 0.03). There was no association between LEA and SWU.


Although it has been suggested that epidural analgesia for labor contributes to an increase in neonatal sepsis work-up (SWU), this retrospective analysis shows that epidural analgesia is not associated with an increase in SWU. The factors that were found to contribute to SWU included low birth weight, low gestational age, meconium aspiration or respiratory distress at birth, hypothermia at birth, maternal group B beta-hemolytic colonization, and preeclampsia or hypertension.

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