Blood pressure and cardiac output during caesarean delivery under spinal anaesthesia: a prospective cohort study

BMJ Open. 2021 Jun 14;11(6):e046102. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2020-046102.


Objectives: We have previously established a method to measure transfer of nutrients between mother, placenta and fetus in vivo. The method includes measurements of maternal and fetal blood flow by Doppler ultrasound prior to spinal anaesthesia. Spinal anaesthesia affects maternal blood pressure and cardiac output. We aimed to determine the effect of spinal anaesthesia in mothers undergoing an elective caesarean section on blood pressure, heart rate and cardiac output, and whether cardiac output levels were comparable before induction of spinal anaesthesia and before delivery.

Design: Prospective cohort study.

Setting: Tertiary hospital in Norway.

Participants: 76 healthy women with uneventful pregnancies undergoing an elective caesarean section.

Interventions: We induced spinal anaesthesia with a standard prevention of hypotension including intravenous fluid coloading and phenylephrine infusion.

Primary and secondary outcome measures: Primary outcome measure was maternal cardiac output, and secondary outcome measures were invasive systolic blood pressure and heart rate. We measured heart rate and blood pressure by continuous invasive monitoring with a cannula in the radial artery. Cardiac output was estimated based on continuous arterial waveform. We compared maternal parameters 30 s before induction of spinal anaesthesia to 30 s before delivery.

Results: Median age at delivery was 34.5 (range 21-43) years and 17 of 76 women were nulliparous. The most prevalent indications were previous caesarean section and maternal request. Among 76 included women, 71 had sufficient data for analysis of endpoints. Median cardiac output was 6.51 (IQR (5.56-7.54) L/min before spinal anaesthesia and 6.40 (5.83-7.56) L/min before delivery (p=0.40)). Median invasive systolic blood pressure increased from 128.5 (120.1-142.7) mm Hg to 134.1 (124.0-146.6) mm Hg (p=0.014), and mean heart rate decreased from 86.0 (SD 13.9) to 75.2 (14.2) (p<0.001).

Conclusions: Maternal cardiac output at the time of caesarean delivery is comparable to levels before induction of spinal anaesthesia.

Trial registration number: NCT00977769.

Keywords: anaesthesia in obstetrics; maternal medicine; obstetrics.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anesthesia, Obstetrical*
  • Anesthesia, Spinal*
  • Blood Pressure
  • Cardiac Output
  • Cesarean Section
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypotension* / etiology
  • Norway
  • Pregnancy
  • Prospective Studies
  • Vasoconstrictor Agents / therapeutic use
  • Young Adult


  • Vasoconstrictor Agents

Associated data