The effects of epidural ropivacaine and bupivacaine for cesarean section on uteroplacental and fetal circulation

S. Alahuhta, J. Rasanen, P. Jouppila, T. Kangas-Saarela, R. Jouppila, P. Westerling, A. I. Hollmen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


Background: Ropivacaine is a new long-acting amide local anesthetic that has been shown in animal studies to have less dysrhythmogenic and cardiotoxic potential than bupivacaine. The intravenous administration of ropivacaine has not been associated with any detrimental effects on uterine blood flow in pregnant ewes. The purpose of this randomized, double-blind study was to examine the effects of epidural ropivacaine for cesarean section on blood flow velocity waveforms in uteroplacental and fetal arteries with color Doppler ultrasound and to assess whether the block modified fetal myocardial function. Methods: Healthy parturient women with singleton, uncomplicated pregnancies at term received 115-140 mg 0.5% ropivacaine (n = 11) or 0.5% bupivacaine (n = 10) in incremental epidural doses. The first ultrasound measurement was performed before injection of the study drug. Pulsatility indexes (PI) were derived for the blood flow velocity waveforms of the maternal placental and nonplacental uterine arteries; the placental arcuate artery; and the fetal umbilical, middle cerebral, and renal arteries. The fetal heart then was examined by echocardiography. The PI of the maternal uterine arteries and the fetal umbilical artery were measured 5 min after the injection of the local anesthetic. When sensory analgesia had reached the T6- T4 level, the ultrasound measurement was repeated with the same methods and targets as in the baseline measurement. Results: Both drugs provided adequate surgical anesthesia for cesarean section. In the bupivacaine group, the PI values for the maternal placental and nonplacental uterine arteries increased significantly 5 min after the main dose (P = 0.01, P = 0.002) and when sensory analgesia had reached the T6-T4 level (P = 0.004, P = 0.01) as compared with the baseline measurement. Simultaneously, the PI in the fetal middle cerebral artery decreased significantly (P = 0.02). The PI for the maternal uterine artery increased significantly (P = 0.01) after ropivacaine administration but only on the nonplacental side and not until sensory analgesia had reached the T6-T4 level. No effect on the Doppler indexes obtained from the umbilical artery was observed in either group. There were no significant differences relative to baseline values in any fetal myocardial measurement or in any ultrasound measurement between the groups. Neither drug had any detrimental effect on Apgar scores or umbilical cord acid-base status. None of the neonates conditions was markedly depressed according to neurobehavioral testing. Conclusions: Within this small study, epidural 0.5% ropivacaine for cesarean section did not compromise the uteroplacental circulation in healthy parturient women with uncomplicated pregnancies. It provided surgical anesthesia that was equally effective as that provided by 0.5% bupivacaine.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)23-32
Number of pages10
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1995
Externally publishedYes


  • Anesthesia, obstetric: cesarean section
  • Anesthetic techniques: epidural
  • Anesthetics, local: bupivacaine; ropivacaine
  • Measurement techniques: Doppler ultrasound; echocardiography
  • Placenta: blood flow velocity
  • Uterus: blood flow

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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