The dural puncture epidural (DPE) technique is associated with faster onset than the conventional epidural (EP) technique for labor analgesia. The programmed intermittent epidural bolus (PIEB) mode for maintaining labor analgesia allows for lower anesthetic drug consumption than the continuous epidural infusion (CEI) mode. Whether DPE technique with PIEB mode offers additional benefits for analgesia onset, local anesthetic drug consumption, and side effects versus EP or DPE techniques with CEI mode remains unclear.
Nulliparous women with a visual analog scale (VAS) pain score >50 mm and cervical dilation <5 cm were randomly assigned to receive EP + CEI, DPE + CEI, or DPE + PIEB for labor analgesia. A 25-gauge needle was used for dural puncture. Analgesia was initiated with 10 mL of 0.1% ropivacaine with 0.3 µg/mL of sufentanil and maintained with the same solution at 8 mL/h in all groups. A 5-mL patient-controlled epidural analgesia (PCEA) bolus was programmed with a 20-minute lockout. Breakthrough pain not amendable by PCEA was treated with provider boluses of 5 mL of 0.125% ropivacaine. The primary outcome was “time to adequate analgesia,” defined as a VAS pain score ≤30 mm during 2 consecutive contractions, and was analyzed using Kaplan–Meier curves and a Cox proportional hazard model. Secondary outcomes included the VAS scores, ropivacaine consumption, sensory block level to ice, PCEA and provider boluses intervention, mode of delivery, duration of labor, Bromage scores, Apgar scores, occurrence of side effects, and maternal satisfaction with the anesthesia.
A total of 116 women were included (38 in the EP + CEI group, 40 in the DPE + CEI group, and 38 in the DPE + PIEB group). Adequate anesthesia was achieved faster in the DPE + CEI and DPE + PIEB groups than in the EP + CEI group (hazard ratio = 1.705; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.039–2.800; P = .015; and hazard ratio = 1.774; 95% CI, 1.070–2.941; P = .012, respectively). DPE technique with PIEB mode was associated with the fewest PCEA boluses and the lowest hourly ropivacaine consumption (both P < .001). There were no differences in the duration of labor, mode of delivery, Bromage scores, newborn Apgar scores, incidence of side effects, and maternal satisfaction scores among the groups.
The use of DPE technique for neuraxial analgesia was associated with faster onset than the use of the EP technique. DPE technique with PIEB mode achieved the greatest drug-sparing effect without increasing maternal or neonatal side effects.