Background and objectives: Oxytocin is the uterotonic used in obstetric anesthesia, and its prophylactic and therapeutic administration is justified because it reduces the incidence of post-partum hemorrhage. However, the ideal infusion regimen in elective cesarean sections has not been determined yet. The objective of this study was to review the main physiological and pharmacological characteristics of oxytocin and to discuss its rational use by anesthesiologists in view of its side effects.
Contents: Oxytocin is produced by the hypothalamus and stored in the posterior lobe of the pituitary gland. In the uterus, is causes contraction of the smooth muscle, which is very important to control hemorrhage after uterine emptying. It also affects other systems, and the reduction in peripheral vascular resistance with consequent hypotension is very important. The extra-uterine actions of oxytocin are important when administered in high doses or in bolus, especially in parturients under anesthesia (spinal block or general anesthesia) with hypovolemia or preexistent alterations in the cardiovascular system. Several infusion regimens have been studied, varying the dose and/or the speed of administration, in an attempt to establish the most adequate.
Conclusions: Due to its wide therapeutic spectrum, oxytocin remains the drug of choice to prevent uterine atony after cesarean sections. Although it has been used for almost 50 years, the adequate infusion regimen in cesarean sections has not been determined yet. The current tendency is to use continual infusion of low doses, and bolus administration should be avoided.