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Discontinuing Oxytocin Infusion in the Active Phase of Labor: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

Saccone, Gabriele MD; Ciardulli, Andrea MD; Baxter, Jason K. MD, MSCP; Quiñones, Joanne N. MD, MSCE; Diven, Liany C. MD; Pinar, Bor MD; Maruotti, Giuseppe Maria MD; Martinelli, Pasquale MD; Berghella, Vincenzo MD

doi: 10.1097/AOG.0000000000002325
Contents: Review

OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the benefits and harms of discontinuation of oxytocin after the active phase of labor is reached.

DATA SOURCES: Electronic databases (ie, MEDLINE, Scopus, ClinicalTrials.gov, EMBASE, ScienceDirect, the Cochrane Library at the CENTRAL Register of Controlled Trials, Scielo) were searched from their inception until April 2017.

METHODS OF STUDY SELECTION: We included all randomized controlled trials comparing discontinuation (ie, intervention group) and continuation (ie, control group) of oxytocin infusion after the active phase of labor is reached, either after induction or augmentation of labor. Discontinuation of oxytocin infusion was defined as discontinuing oxytocin infusion when the active phase of labor was achieved. Continuation of oxytocin infusion was defined as continuing oxytocin infusion until delivery. Only trials in singleton gestations with vertex presentation at term were included. The primary outcome was the incidence of cesarean delivery.

TABULATION, INTEGRATION, AND RESULTS: Nine randomized controlled trials, including 1,538 singleton gestations, were identified as relevant and included in the meta-analysis. All nine trials included only women undergoing induction of labor. In the discontinuation group, if arrest of labor occurred, usually defined as no cervical dilation in 2 hours or inadequate uterine contractions for 2 hours or more, oxytocin infusion was restarted. Women in the control group had oxytocin continued until delivery usually at the same dose used at the time the active phase was reached. Women who were randomized to have discontinuation of oxytocin infusion after the active phase of labor was reached had a significantly lower risk of cesarean delivery (9.3% compared with 14.7%; relative risk 0.64, 95% CI 0.48–0.87) and of uterine tachysystole (6.2% compared with 13.1%; relative risk 0.53, 95% CI 0.33–0.84) compared with those who were randomized to have continuation of oxytocin infusion until delivery. Discontinuation of oxytocin infusion was associated with an increase in the duration of the active phase of labor (mean difference 27.65 minutes, 95% CI 3.94–51.36).

CONCLUSION: In singleton gestations with cephalic presentation at term undergoing induction, discontinuation of oxytocin infusion after the active phase of labor at approximately 5 cm is reached reduces the risk of cesarean delivery and of uterine tachysystole compared with continuous oxytocin infusion. Given this evidence, discontinuation of oxytocin infusion once the active stage of labor is established in women being induced should be considered as an alternative management plan.

Discontinuation of oxytocin after reaching the active phase of labor in women undergoing induction reduces the risk of cesarean delivery and uterine tachysystole but increases the duration of active labor.

Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Sidney Kimmel Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; the Department of Neuroscience, Reproductive Sciences and Dentistry, School of Medicine, University of Naples Federico II, Naples, Italy; the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Catholic University of Sacred Heart, Rome, Italy; the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Lehigh Valley Health Network, Allentown, Pennsylvania; and the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Regional Hospital of Randers, Randers, Denmark.

Corresponding author: Vincenzo Berghella, MD, Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Thomas Jefferson University, 833 Chestnut Street, First Floor, Philadelphia, PA 19107; email: vincenzo.berghella@jefferson.edu.

Financial Disclosure The authors did not report any potential conflicts of interest.

Each author has indicated that he or she has met the journal's requirements for authorship.

© 2017 by The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Published by Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.