Comparison of Intermittent Intravenous Boluses of Phenylephrine and Norepinephrine to Prevent and Treat Spinal-Induced Hypotension in Cesarean Deliveries: Randomized Controlled Trial

Sharkey, AM; Siddiqui, N; Downey, K; Ye, XY; Guevara, J; Carvalho, JCA

Sharkey, AM (reprint author), Univ Toronto, Mt Sinai Hosp, Dept Anesthesia & Pain Management, Toronto, ON, Canada.

ANESTHESIA AND ANALGESIA, 2019; 129 (5): 1312


BACKGROUND: Phenylephrine (PE) is currently the vasopressor of choice to prevent and treat spinal-induced hypotension at cesarean delivery (CD). However, its use is often associated with reflex bradycardia. Norepinephrine (NE) has been put forward as an alternative vasopressor during CD due to its ability to treat hypotension while maintaining heart rate (HR). Recent studies have focused on the role of NE used as an infusion with favorable results compared to PE. No studies have compared equipotent bolus doses of PE and NE at CD. We hypothesized that when used in equipotent doses as an intermittent bolus regimen to prevent and treat spinal-induced hypotension, NE would result in a reduction in the incidence of bradycardia compared to PE. METHODS: This was a double-blind, randomized clinical trial of women undergoing elective CD under spinal anesthesia. Women were randomized to receive either PE 100 mu g or NE 6 mu g when the systolic blood pressure (SBP) was below baseline. In addition to the randomized treatment, ephedrine was given intravenously to both groups if the SBP was below baseline and the HR <60 bpm or if the SBP was <80% of baseline for 2 consecutive readings. The primary outcome was bradycardia (HR <50 bpm) in the predelivery period. Secondary outcomes included hypotension (SBP <80% of baseline), hypertension (SBP >120% of baseline), tachycardia (HR >120% of baseline), >= 2 episodes of bradycardia, nausea, vomiting, umbilical artery and vein blood gases, and Apgar scores. RESULTS: One hundred twelve patients were randomized. The incidence of bradycardia was lower in the NE group compared to the PE group (10.7% vs 37.5%; P < .001; difference [95% confidence interval {CI}], -26.8% [-41.8% to -11.7%]), implying an estimated 71% relative reduction (95% CI, 35%-88%). The distribution of the number of bradycardia episodes was also different between the 2 groups (P = .007). Further testing showed that the patients in the PE group had a higher risk of multiple bradycardia episodes (>= 2 episodes) compared to the NE group (19.6% for PE versus 3.6% for NE; P = .008). The proportion of patients requiring rescue boluses of ephedrine was lower in the NE group compared to the PE group (7.2% for NE versus 21.4% for PE; P < .03; difference [95% CI], -14.3% [-27.0% to -1.6%]). No differences were observed between the 2 groups in the incidence of other secondary outcomes. CONCLUSIONS: When used as an intermittent bolus regimen to prevent and treat spinal-induced hypotension during CD, NE resulted in a significant reduction in the incidence of bradycardia as compared to an equipotent bolus regimen of PE. We conclude that the hemodynamic profile offered by NE during CD is superior to that of PE due to less fluctuations in HR and possibly cardiac output.

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