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Anesth Analg. 2009 Oct;109(4):1174-81. doi: 10.1213/ane.0b013e3181b2ef75.

Epidemiology of anesthesia-related complications in labor and delivery, New York State, 2002-2005.

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Department of Anesthesiology, Columbia University, 622 West 168th St., PH5-505, New York, NY 10032, USA.



Epidemiologic data on anesthesia-related complications occurring during labor and delivery are essential for measuring and evaluating the safety and quality of obstetric anesthesia care but are lacking. We aimed to fill this research gap by exploring the epidemiologic patterns and risk factors of anesthesia-related complications in a large sample of women giving birth in New York hospitals.


Using the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project State Inpatient Databases files, we identified all discharge records for labor and delivery from New York hospitals between 2002 and 2005. We then identified women who experienced any recorded anesthesia-related complication during labor and delivery as determined by International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision, Clinical Modification codes. The incidence of anesthesia-related complications was calculated by demographic and clinical characteristics. Multivariate logistic regression was performed to assess risk factors of anesthesia-related complications.


Of the 957,471 deliveries studied, 4438 (0.46%) had at least one anesthesia-related complication. The majority (55%) of anesthesia-related events occurring during labor and delivery were spinal complications, followed by systemic complications (43%) and overdose or adverse effects (2%). Multivariate logistic regression revealed five risk factors of anesthesia-related complications: cesarean delivery (odds ratio [OR] 2.51, 95% confidence interval [CI] 2.36-2.68), rural area (OR 1.33, 95% CI 1.21-1.46), Charlson-Deyo Comorbidity Index >or=1 (OR 1.47, 95% CI 1.28-1.69), Caucasian race (OR 1.37, 95% CI 1.24-1.52), and scheduled admission (OR 1.10, 95% CI 1.03-1.18). Anesthesia-related complications were associated with about a one-day increase in the average length of stay (3.89 +/- 3.69 [mean +/- SD] days vs 2.92 +/- 2.38 days for deliveries without anesthesia-related complications, P < 0.0001) and a 22-fold increased risk of maternal mortality (OR 22.26, 95% CI 11.20-44.24).


The incidence of anesthesia-related complications during labor and delivery seems to be low but remains a cause of concern, particularly in women undergoing cesarean delivery, living in rural areas, or having preexisting medical conditions.

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