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Anaesthesia. 1997 Jun;52(6):517-24.

Neonatal welfare and placental transfer of fentanyl and bupivacaine during ambulatory combined spinal epidural analgesia for labour.

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Department of Anaesthesia, Queen Charlotte's Hospital, London, UK.


To investigate current concerns that potent opioid drugs, such as fentanyl, used for labour regional analgesia may affect neonatal status, maternal and umbilical plasma concentrations of fentanyl and bupivacaine at delivery were measured in 40 nulliparous patients receiving low-dose combined spinal epidural analgesia. Neonatal assessments included Apgar scores, umbilical blood gases and neurobehavioural tests. All maternal and umbilical venous plasma concentrations were low. Maternal and umbilical vein total fentanyl concentrations increased with increasing doses of epidural fentanyl (r = 0.46 and 0.30, respectively, p < 0.01). There were no significant differences between maternal and umbilical venous plasma total or free concentrations of fentanyl. Mean umbilical vein/maternal fentanyl ratios were 1.12 for total drug and 1.20 for free drug and values were unrelated to the last epidural bolus to delivery interval (r = 0.12, p = 0.49). There were no correlations between Apgar scores, umbilical blood gases or neurobehavioural scores and umbilical venous concentrations of either fentanyl or bupivacaine. The dose of fentanyl used for ambulatory combined spinal epidural analgesia would appear to have a negligible effect on neonatal condition.

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