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Anaesthesia. 2013 Jul;68(7):753-9. doi: 10.1111/anae.12290. Epub 2013 May 15.

Speed of spinal vs general anaesthesia for category-1 caesarean section: a simulation and clinical observation-based study.

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  • 1Department of Anesthesia, British Columbia Women's Hospital and Health Centre, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada; King's Mill Hospital, Sutton-in-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire, UK.


Controversy exists as to whether effective spinal anaesthesia can be achieved as quickly as general anaesthesia for a category-1 caesarean section. Sixteen consultants and three fellows in obstetric anaesthesia were timed performing spinal and general anaesthesia for category-1 caesarean section on a simulator. The simulation time commenced upon entry of the anaesthetist into the operating theatre and finished for the spinal anaesthetic at the end of intrathecal injection and for the general anaesthetic when the anaesthetist was happy for surgery to start. In the second clinical part of the study, the time from intrathecal administration to 'adequate surgical anaesthesia' (defined as adequate for start of a category-1 caesarean section) was estimated in 100 elective (category-4) caesarean sections. The median (IQR [range]) times (min:s) for spinal procedure, onset of spinal block and general anaesthesia were 2:56 (2:32-3:32 [1:22-3:50]), 5:56 (4:23-7:39 [2:9-13:32]) and 1:56 (1:39-2:9 [1:13-3:12]), respectively. The limiting factor in urgent spinal anaesthesia is the unpredictable time needed for adequate surgical block to develop.

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