Background This double-blind, randomized trial compared dural puncture epidural analgesia (DPEA) for labor using 25-gauge and 27-gauge pencil point spinal needles. We hypothesized that both needle sizes would result in similar onset time (equivalence margin=2.5 min) and therefore designed the study as an equivalence trial.
Methods One hundred and forty patients undergoing labor were randomized to DPEA with 25-gauge (n=70) or 27-gauge (n=70) pencil point spinal needles. After the placement of the epidural catheter, a bolus of 20 mL of bupivacaine 0.125% and fentanyl 2 µg/mL was administered to all subjects. Thereafter, patients received boluses of 12 mL of bupivacaine 0.125% every 2 hours as needed.
A blinded investigator recorded the onset time (defined as the temporal interval required to achieve a pain score ≤1 on a 0–10 scale), S2 block, sensory block height (30 min after the initial bolus of local anesthetic), presence of motor block (30 min after the initial bolus of local anesthetic), number of top-up doses required during labor and incidence of postural headache.
Results Out of the 140 recruited patients, 135 were retained for analysis. Compared with their 27-gauge counterparts, 25-gauge pencil point spinal needles provided a 1.6 min shorter DPEA onset (95% CI of the difference of the means: −3.2 to −0.1 min). However, there were no intergroup differences in terms of S2 block, sensory block height, motor block, number of top-up doses and incidence of postural headache.
Conclusion Dural puncture epidural analgesia with 25-gauge pencil point spinal needles provides a 1.6 min shorter onset time than DPEA with 27-gauge spinal needles. Although statistically significant, such a difference may not be clinically relevant. Further investigation is required to compare 25-gauge and 27-gauge spinal needles for DPEA in the setting of different local anesthetic infusion strategies.
Trial registration number NCT03389945.
- neuraxial blocks: epidural
- spinal/epidural injection
- postdural puncture headache
- neuraxial blocks: continuous techniques
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Contributors FC, JM, DB, SL, ÁJ, CR, RP, ND and JA participated in the planning, conduct, reporting, conception and design, acquisition of data, data analysis and interpretation of data. RJF participated in the planning, data analysis and interpretation of data. DQT participated in the planning, conception, design, data analysis and interpretation of data.
Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.
Competing interests None declared.
Patient consent for publication Not required.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
Data availability statement Data are available on reasonable request.