Comparison of bupivacaine and ropivacaine in combination with fentanyl used for walking epidural anesthesia in labor

Turk J Obstet Gynecol. 2017 Sep;14(3):170-175. doi: 10.4274/tjod.87404. Epub 2017 Sep 30.


Objective: Effective pain relief during labor is essential to reduce maternal and perinatal morbidity arising due to pain-induced maternal sympathetic activation, and to avoid unnecessary cesarean sections performed due to maternal anxiety. Walking epidural analgesia on labor reveals lower pain scores, leading to higher maternal satisfaction with better cardiovascular and pulmonary physiology. Despite the extensive use and relative safety of bupivacaine, newer drugs such as ropivacaine have been developed as alternative agents to decrease the risk for cardiac and central nervous system toxicity.

Materials and methods: One hundred women who requested epidural analgesia in active labor were randomly allocated into two groups; one group received 20 mL of ropivacaine 0.125% with fentanyl 50 µg and the other received 20 mL of bupivacaine 0.125% with fentanyl 50 µg. The efficacy of analgesia, adverse effects, and obstetric and neonatal outcomes of both groups were compared.

Results: There were no differences between the two study groups in the measured obstetric and neonatal outcomes. The onset time, duration of analgesia, and sensory levels were similar between the groups. Visual analog pain scale scores did not differ between the groups before analgesia or at any of the subsequent evaluation periods.

Conclusion: Both ropivacaine and bupivacaine provide equivalent labor analgesia with high maternal satisfaction and tolerable adverse effects in the clinically used dose range. No adverse obstetric or neonatal outcomes were observed in either group. Therefore, either drug is a reasonable choice for labor analgesia and can be used without jeopardizing the safety of the mother and fetus.

Keywords: bupivacaine; epidural; fentanyl; labor; ropivacaine.