- •More than 80% of 8100 women using remifentanil were satisfied with labour analgesia.
- •Monitoring relies heavily on the constant presence of a midwife.
- •Over 50% of women using remifentanil required supplemental oxygen.
- •Apgar scores were not less favourable than for epidural or IM diamorphine analgesia.
- •Neonatal resuscitation or admission was not more likely with remifentanil.
Intravenous remifentanil patient-controlled analgesia (PCA) has been routinely available for labouring women in our unit since 2004, the regimen using a 40 µg bolus available two minutely on demand, continuous pulse oximetry and mandatory one-to-one care. We examined remifentanil use and compared, with the other analgesic options available in our unit, outcomes such as mode of delivery, Apgar scores, neonatal resuscitation and admission to the neonatal intensive care unit.
We retrospectively identified women who delivered in our unit between 2005 and 2014 and received remifentanil, diamorphine or epidural analgesia during labour. Data were drawn from the Northern Ireland Maternity System electronic database, which records birth details from all obstetric units in Northern Ireland. Additional data were identified from paper survey forms, completed by the midwife post delivery for all women who received remifentanil in our unit. Outcomes were compared between women who received remifentanil, diamorphine or an epidural technique for labour analgesia.
Over the 10-year period, remifentanil was the most popular form of analgesia, being selected by 31.9% (8170/25617) women. Compared with women selecting diamorphine or epidural analgesia, those having remifentanil had similar rates of instrumental and operative delivery. Neonatal Apgar scores were also similar. Neonatal resuscitation or neonatal unit admission were not more likely in women choosing remifentanil PCA.
We found remifentanil PCA to be neither less safe nor associated with poorer outcomes than other analgesic options offered in our unit, when used within our guidelines for more than a 10-year period.