Regional versus general anaesthesia for caesarean section

Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2006 Oct 18:(4):CD004350. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD004350.pub2.


Background: Regional and general anaesthesia (GA) are commonly used for caesarean section (CS) and both have advantages and disadvantages. It is important to clarify what type of anaesthesia is more efficacious.

Objectives: To compare the effects of regional anaesthesia (RA) with those of GA on the outcomes of CS.

Search strategy: We searched the Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth Group's Trials Register (30 December 2005), the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (The Cochrane Library 2005, Issue 1), MEDLINE (1966 to December 2005), and EMBASE (1980 to December 2005).

Selection criteria: Randomised and quasi-randomised controlled trials evaluating the use of RA and GA in women who had CS for any indication.

Data collection and analysis: Two authors independently assessed trials for inclusion, data extraction and trial quality.

Main results: Sixteen studies (1586 women) were included in this review. Women who had either epidural anaesthesia or spinal anaesthesia were found to have a significantly lower difference between pre and postoperative haematocrit (weighted mean difference (WMD) 1.70, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.47 to 2.93, one trial, 231 women) and (WMD 3.10, 95% CI 1.73 to 4.47, one trial, 209 women). Compared to GA, women having either an epidural anaesthesia or spinal had a lower estimated maternal blood loss (WMD -126.98 millilitres, 95% CI -225.06 to -28.90, two trials, 256 women) and (WMD -84.79 millilitres, 95% CI -126.96 to -42.63, two trials, 279 women). More women preferred to have GA for subsequent procedures when compared with epidural (odds ratio (OR) 0.56, 95% CI 0.32 to 0.96, one trial, 223 women) or spinal (OR 0.44, 95% CI 0.24 to 0.81, 221 women). The incidence of nausea was also less for this group of women compared with epidural (OR 3.17, 95% CI 1.64 to 6.14, three trials, 286 women) or spinal (OR 23.22, 95% CI 8.69 to 62.03, 209 women). No significant difference was seen in terms of neonatal Apgar scores of six or less and of four or less at one and five minutes and need for neonatal resuscitation with oxygen.

Authors' conclusions: There is no evidence from this review to show that RA is superior to GA in terms of major maternal or neonatal outcomes. Further research to evaluate neonatal morbidity and maternal outcomes, such as satisfaction with technique, will be useful.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Anesthesia, Conduction*
  • Anesthesia, General*
  • Anesthesia, Obstetrical / methods*
  • Cesarean Section*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Pregnancy
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic