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Med Sci Monit. 2003 Jul;9(7):CS63-6.

Intravenous nitro-glycerine versus general anaesthesia for placental extraction--a sequential comparison.

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Department of Anaesthesia (O&G), KK Women's and Children's Hospital, Singapore.



Postpartum haemorrhage due to retained placenta is one of the commonest life-threatening conditions during the third stage of labour. Uterine relaxation is usually required to facilitate placental removal. 'Full-stomach' obstetric patients (which includes those who delivered within 48 h), parturients with a history of antepartum or recurrent postpartum hemorrhage, grand multiparity, twin pregnancy, and those with cardiac abnormalities may benefit from an alternative to volatile-based general anaesthesia for uterine relaxation to avoid complications associated with the technique (e.g. aspiration pneumonitis and cardiovascular compromise).


A 34-year-old gravida 4, para 3 parturient with rheumatic valvular heart disease presented with retained placenta and postpartum haemorrhage on two consecutive deliveries and had the placenta removed manually by the same surgeon under two different anaesthetic techniques. On the first occasion, general anaesthesia was administered whereas only i.v. fentanyl and nitro-glycerine were used on the second occasion. The postoperative course was uneventful on both occasions.


The use of nitro-glycerine was found to be efficacious for manual removal of placenta with minimal haemodynamic perturbations, avoiding the use (and associated risks) of general anaesthesia for uterine relaxation. The ability of nitro-glycerine to reduce spontaneous uterine activity, induce uterine relaxation, coupled with its short duration of action and high efficacy, may render it a safe alternative to general anaesthesia for facilitating intrauterine manoeuvres. Nitro-glycerine may be useful especially in patients with associated co-morbid chronic cardiac conditions, e.g. rheumatic heart disease, which is characterised by impaired haemodynamics and cardiac reserves.

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