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Clonidine Added to Bupivacaine-Epinephrine-Sufentanil Improves Epidural Analgesia During Childbirth
  1. Brigitte Claes, M.D.*,
  2. Maurits Soetens, M.D.,
  3. André Van Zundert, M.D., Ph.D. and
  4. Sanjay Datta, M.D.§
  1. *From the Department of Anesthesiology and Intensive Care, O.L.V. Middelares Hospital, Deurne, Belgium; the
  2. Department of Anesthesiology, St. Elisabeth Hospital, Turnhout, Belgium; the
  3. Department of Anesthesiology, Intensive Care, and Pain Therapy, Catharina Hospital, Eindhoven, the Netherlands; and the
  4. §Department of Anesthesiology, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts.
  1. Reprint requests: André Van Zundert, Ph.D., Catharina Hospital, 5623 EJ Eindhoven, the Netherlands.


Background and Objectives A double-blind study was conducted to assess the efficacy and the side effects of a low dose of clonidine added to an epidural injection of bupivacaine and epinephrine, with or without sufentanil.

Methods One hundred healthy parturients (ASA 1) were randomly allocated into four groups according to the type of epidural analgesia administered. The bupivacaine/epinephrine (BE) group received a 10-mL standard injection of bupivacaine (B) 1.25 mg/mL and epinephrine (E) 1.25 μg/mL. In the bupivacaine/epinephrine/sufentanil (BES) group, 7.5 μg sufentanil (S) was added to the BE mixture. For the bupivacaine/ epinephrine/clonidine (BEC) group, 50 μg clonidine (C) was added to the BE mixture, whereas for the bupivacaine/epinephrine/sufentanil/clonidine (BESC) group, both sufentanil and clonidine were added to BE. Fetal heart rate was monitored by continuous cardiotocography. Duration of analgesia, method of delivery, and neonatal outcome (measured using APGAR score, peripheral oxygen saturation, and neurologic adaptive capacity score) and side effects of clonidine were observed. The parturients were routinely asked for their global appreciation of the epidural analgesia technique by visual analog score, 2 hours postpartum.

Results The overall quality and duration of analgesia were superior in the BESC group compared with the other groups, as was the global appreciation by the parturient. The frequency of side effects in the clonidine groups was comparable, with the exception of hypotension and sedation. Hypotension was easily treated by fluids or ephedrine and caused no fetal distress. The level of sedation was mild, and all parturients aroused immediately after verbal commands.

Conclusion The addition of a low dose of clonidine to an epidural injection of bupivacaine with epinephrine and sufentanil provides better analgesia during labor, while keeping the side effects minimal and of minor clinical importance.

  • obstetric analgesia
  • sufentanil
  • bupivacaine
  • epidural anesthesia
  • pain
  • clonidine

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  • The work was performed at the St. Elisabeth Hospital, Turnhout, Belgium, and was presented in April 1996 at the World Congress of Anesthesiologists, Sydney, Australia, and in March 1996 at the European Society of Regional Anaesthesia meeting, Antwerp, Belgium. No grants were provided.