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A Randomized Controlled Comparison Between Combined Spinal-Epidural and Single-Shot Spinal Techniques in Morbidly Obese Parturients Undergoing Cesarean Delivery: Time for Initiation of Anesthesia

Ross, Vernon H. MD; Dean, Laura S. MD; Thomas, John A. MD; Harris, Lynne C. BSN; Pan, Peter H. MSEE, MD

doi: 10.1213/ANE.0000000000000022
Obstetric Anesthesiology: Research Report

BACKGROUND: There is no current consensus on the optimal technique for subarachnoid anesthesia in morbidly obese parturients even though some providers prefer the combined spinal-epidural (CSE) over single-shot spinal (SSS) technique. In this randomized controlled study, we compared the time required for initiation of subarachnoid anesthesia between SSS and CSE techniques in morbidly obese parturients undergoing elective cesarean delivery.

METHODS: Morbidly obese parturients presenting for elective cesarean delivery were randomized to receive subarachnoid anesthesia performed either with a SSS or a CSE technique. The spinal procedure in the sitting position was attempted by an experienced resident for up to 10 minutes, and if unsuccessful, the attending obstetric anesthesiologist assumed control of the procedure. The primary outcome was the time it took from the insertion of the introducer needle (SSS group) or insertion of the epidural needle (CSE group) to the end of intrathecal injection of drugs (procedure time).

RESULTS: Forty-four patients were enrolled and completed the study. Three were excluded due to protocol violations. Of the remaining, 21 patients were in the SSS group and 20 in the CSE group. Demographic variables and mean (SD) body mass index (48.7 ± 7.6 kg/m2 for SSS; 49.9 ± 8.6 kg/m2 for CSE) were not different between groups. The median [interquartile range] for procedure time was 210 [116–692] seconds and 180 [75–450] seconds for SSS and CSE groups, respectively (P = 0.36), while the 95% confidence interval (CI) of the difference was −80 to +180 seconds. The first operator completed the procedure in <10 minutes in 71% of subjects in the SSS group and 95% of those in the CSE group (P = 0.09) and the 95% CI of the difference was −2% to +45%. There were more attempts to successful completion of the procedure in the SSS group (P = 0.007) with its 95% CI of the difference being +1 to +6.

CONCLUSION: Our results suggest that the CSE technique is noninferior to the SS technique in morbidly obese parturients for time of initiation of subarachnoid anesthesia and may be accomplished with fewer attempts than the SSS technique with experienced residents.

From the Department of Anesthesiology, Wake Forest School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Accepted for publication September 24, 2013.

Funding: None other than department funds.

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Reprints will not be available from the authors.

Address correspondence to Peter H. Pan, MSEE, MD, Department of Anesthesiology, Wake Forest School of Medicine, Medical Center Boulevard, Winston-Salem, NC 27157-1009. Address e-mail to

© 2014 International Anesthesia Research Society