Use of epidural clonidine for the management of analgesia in the opioid addicted parturient on buprenorphine maintenance therapy: an observational study

Int J Obstet Anesth. 2018 May:34:67-72. doi: 10.1016/j.ijoa.2018.01.001. Epub 2018 Jan 31.


Objectives: Management of labor analgesia and post-cesarean delivery pain is challenging in the patient taking buprenorphine as opioid addiction maintenance therapy. We observed whether substituting clonidine for fentanyl in an epidural solution would provide adequate analgesia for labor and after cesarean delivery.

Methods: We substituted our standard 2 µg/mL fentanyl in 0.0625% bupivacaine epidural solution with 2 µg/mL clonidine in 0.0625% bupivacaine, or 1.2 µg/mL clonidine in 0.1% bupivacaine, for labor and post-cesarean analgesia in parturients on buprenorphine therapy. All cesarean deliveries were performed with a combined spinal-epidural technique and the catheters maintained for immediate postoperative analgesia using an epidural infusion. Catheters were discontinued the next day and patients were then managed with other analgesics based on obstetric preference. We recorded pain scores during labor and in the immediate post-surgical period; and supplemental medications given after epidural catheter removal.

Results: Fourteen patients were included in the study, of whom seven presented in spontaneous labor and seven had elective cesarean delivery. All laboring patients achieved good analgesia, and five of seven avoided supplemental opioid use in the postpartum phase. Of the postsurgical patients, six of seven had pain scores less than 5/10 at epidural catheter removal and three of seven avoided supplemental opioids postoperatively.

Conclusions: The combination of clonidine and bupivacaine appears effective in parturients on buprenorphine therapy for opioid addiction maintenance. As study numbers were small and several factors were not examined, further confirmatory research is needed, including to determine the ideal dose of epidural clonidine in this setting.

Keywords: Analgesia; Buprenorphine; Clonidine; Epidural; Labor; Opioid addiction; Post-cesarean.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Adrenergic alpha-Agonists*
  • Adult
  • Analgesia, Epidural / methods*
  • Analgesia, Obstetrical / methods*
  • Buprenorphine / therapeutic use*
  • Catheterization
  • Cesarean Section / methods
  • Clonidine*
  • Delivery, Obstetric
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Narcotics / therapeutic use*
  • Opiate Substitution Treatment*
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / complications*
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / rehabilitation*
  • Pain Management
  • Pain Measurement
  • Pain, Postoperative / drug therapy
  • Pregnancy
  • Young Adult


  • Adrenergic alpha-Agonists
  • Narcotics
  • Buprenorphine
  • Clonidine