Preprocedural ultrasound may improve the efficacy and safety of epidural catheterization, especially in difficult cases. Most studies of ultrasound-assisted epidural catheterization in the obstetric population are dated and nonblinded with inconsistent designs. This double-blind, randomized controlled study aimed to compare the ultrasound-assisted with the conventional palpation techniques for epidural catheterization in parturients undergoing cesarean delivery. We hypothesized that the use of preprocedural ultrasound would increase the success rate of epidural catheterization at the first needle pass.
Eligible subjects were American Society of Anesthesiologists physical status II parturients with full-term singleton pregnancy undergoing elective cesarean delivery using double-interspace combined spinal–epidural anesthesia. Exclusion criteria were age <19 or >40 years, body mass index ≥35 kg/m2, women presenting in labor or having any contraindication to neuraxial anesthesia, marked spinal deformity, previous spinal surgery, or impalpable anatomical landmarks. One hundred ten patients were randomly allocated into 2 equal groups (palpation and ultrasound groups). All procedures were performed by a single experienced anesthesiologist. Patients and investigators assessing the outcome data were blinded to group allocation. A systematic spinal ultrasound assessment and a sham procedure were performed in the ultrasound and palpation groups, respectively, before attempting epidural catheterization. The primary outcome was the rate of successful epidural catheterization at the first needle pass. Secondary outcomes were the rate of successful epidural catheterization at the first skin puncture, number of performed needle passes and skin punctures, duration of the epidural procedure, patient satisfaction from the procedure, and complications of the procedure (incidence of unintentional dural and vascular punctures, failed block, unilateral or patchy block, and backache).
Data from 108 patients (55 patients in the palpation group and 53 patients in the ultrasound group) were analyzed. The rate of successful epidural catheterization at the first needle pass was 60% in the palpation group and 58.5% in the ultrasound group (95% confidence interval of the difference in proportions between groups is −18.5% to 21.6%; P > 0.99). There were no significant differences between the 2 groups in the success rate at the first skin puncture, the number of needle passes and skin punctures, or patient satisfaction. The median (range) duration of the epidural procedure was 185 (57–680) seconds in the ultrasound group and 215 (114–720) seconds in the palpation group (P = 0.036 with the Mann-Whitney U test and P = 0.083 with the Student t test with unequal variances). The overall rate of complications of the procedure was low in both groups.
For experienced anesthesiologists, it remains unclear whether preprocedural ultrasound improves the epidural catheterization technique in parturients with palpable anatomical landmarks undergoing cesarean delivery.
Published ahead of print May 13, 2016.
From the *Department of Anesthesia and Surgical Intensive Care, Mansoura University Hospitals, Mansoura, Egypt; and †Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Mansoura University Hospitals, Mansoura, Egypt.
Published ahead of print May 13, 2016.
Accepted for publication February 29, 2016.
Funding: Department of Anesthesia and Surgical Intensive Care, Mansoura University Hospitals, Mansoura, Egypt.
The authors declare no conflicts of interest.
Reprints will not be available from the authors.
Address correspondence to Mohamed Mohamed Tawfik, MD, Anesthesia and Surgical Intensive Care, Mansoura University Hospitals, 26 Elgomhoria St, Mansoura, Dakahlia, Egypt. Address e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.