Background: In a survey of German hospitals with obstetric units, data on anaesthesia and analgesia in obstetric pain management were collected.
Methods: At each of 918 hospitals with obstetric units, the head of the anaesthetic department received a questionnaire on obstetric pain management.
Results: The response rate was 47.1%. On average, there were 748+/-407 (median 663;1st/3rd quartiles 309/1,303) births per year and hospital, 69.4% with spontaneous vaginal delivery. Opioids were the systemic analgesics most frequently administered in the delivery rooms. Epidural analgesia (EA) was given to 17.5+/-12.6% of the parturients. The number of deliveries per annum had a significant influence on the frequency of EA (<500 deliveries/year: 12.7%, 500-1000/year: 18.6%, >1,000/year: 21.6%). The preferred local anaesthetics were ropivacaine und bupivacaine. When an opioid was given this was almost always sufentanil. In 16% of the responding hospitals adrenaline was added to the epidural test bolus.
Conclusion: EA is the mainstream method of relieving labour pains in almost all German hospitals, but is used significantly more often in hospitals with rather high numbers of yearly deliveries than in hospitals in which there are few deliveries per year.