Background: Intrathecal sufentanil relieves labor pain but centrally mediated side effects are common. Preventing rostral spread of intrathecal sufentanil should limit these side effects. Both direction of the lateral opening of a pencil-point needle and drug baricity modify the spread of intrathecal local anesthetics. This randomized, prospective, double-blind study examines the effects of these variables on intrathecal sufentanil labor analgesia.
Methods: Forty laboring, full-term parturients, whose cervixes were dilated less than 5 cm and who requested analgesia for labor were enrolled. Combined spinal epidural analgesia was induced in patients in the sitting position. They were allocated to receive 10 micrograms intrathecal sufentanil diluted with either normal saline or dextrose with the aperture of the pencil-point needle directed cephalad or caudad during drug injection. Thus there were four groups of ten patients: dextrose up, dextrose down, saline up, and saline down. Sufentanil was diluted with normal saline to a concentration of 10 micrograms/ml. The study drug was made by mixing 1 ml sufentanil solution with either 1 ml 10% dextrose or 1 ml normal saline. Visual analog scores for pain, pruritus, nausea, and pain relief were recorded before and 5, 10, 15, and 30 min after drug injection.
Results: Baricity, but not needle orientation, influenced pain relief and pruritus. Sufentanil in dextrose produced less itching but also less analgesia. Nine of 20 women in the dextrose groups compared with 1 of 20 in the saline groups requested additional analgesia by 30 min.
Conclusions: Little or no labor analgesia developed for patients receiving sufentanil with dextrose. A supraspinal action may contribute to intrathecal sufentanil's analgesic efficacy.