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Program Written Summary
Audio-Digest Anesthesiology
Volume 55, Issue 13
April 7, 2013

Obstetric Emergencies for the Nonobstetric Anesthesiologist – Lydia S. Grondin, MD
Analgesia During Labor – Robert R. Gaiser, MD, MSEd

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The following is an abstracted summary, not a verbatim transcript, of the lectures/discussions on this audio program.

Anesthesiology Program Info  Accreditation InfoCultural & Linguistic Competency Resources

Anesthetic Care of the Obstetric Patient

Educational Objectives

The goals of this program are to improve the management of obstetric hemorrhagic emergencies and labor analgesia. After hearing and assimilating this program, the clinician will be better able to:

1. Identify and administer the appropriate medical method of control to a patient experiencing postpartum hemorrhage.

2. Implement techniques to optimize uterine blood flow to support preservation of pregnancy.

3. Describe the physiology of labor and the associated pain.

4. Choose the best technique for epidural placement.

5. Prevent complications of neuraxial labor analgesia.

Faculty Disclosure

In adherence to ACCME Standards of Commercial Support, Audio-Digest requires all faculty and members of the planning committee to disclose relevant financial relationships within the past 12 months that might create any personal conflicts of interest. Any identified conflicts were resolved to ensure that this educational activity promotes quality in health care and not a proprietary business or commercial interest. For this program, the faculty and planning committee reported nothing to disclose. In their lectures, Drs. Grondin and Gaiser present information that is related to the off-label or investigational use of a therapy, product, or device.

Obstetric Emergencies for
the Nonobstetric Anesthesiologist

Lydia S. Grondin, MD, Assistant Professor of Anesthesiology, University of Vermont College of Medicine, and Director, Obstetric Anesthesia, Fletcher Allen Health Care, Burlington

Case example: 27-yr-old gravida 5, para 2, at 27-wk gestation with bleeding and premature rupture of membranes (ROM); good airway on examination; has history of 2 cesarean deliveries and exploratory laparotomy, and of anxiety; no active bleeding, but known anterior placenta previa (magnetic resonance imaging shows acreta, but no percreta); intravenous (IV) access obtained; patient typed and cross-matched for 4 U packed red blood cells (PRBC); obstetric-gynecologic oncology surgeon consulted; patient stable for cesarean delivery, but at high risk for bleeding

Regional anesthesia (RA): not absolutely contraindicated; consider duration of surgery (possibly prolonged due to previous abdominal surgeries) and risk for bleeding; risks — procedure may outlast spinal anesthesia (SA); sympathectomy undesirable with chance of hypovolemia; may require airway management while focusing on volume status; benefits — less exposure of fetus to volatile agents and medications (long-term effects possible); support person present; however, if bleeding occurs, support person may need escort by staff member (ie, may reduce available help); combined spinal epidural (CSE) — accommodates lengthy surgery; allows improved postoperative pain control; general anesthetic (GA) — benefits include secure airway and allowing focus on hemodynamic stability; risks include fetal exposure to multiple medications and contribution of volatile agents to uterine atony

Anesthetic plan: SA to minimize fetal exposure, with conversion to GA if prolonged procedure needed; obtain preoperative central venous access; patient developed acute bleeding, with nonreassuring fetal heart rate (FHR) tracing; rapid induction of GA with IV access and monitoring established; oxytocin (Pitocin, Syntocinon) infusion administered for bleeding from unanticipated placenta percreta and massive transfusion protocol implemented with cell salvage; estimated blood loss (EBL) of 3 L replaced with 4 U PRBCs, 2 U fresh frozen plasma (FFP), and 266 mL from cell salvage; patient extubated and transferred to intensive care unit

Postpartum hemorrhage (PPH): 500 mL for vaginal delivery and >1 L for cesarian delivery; increasing incidence in United States due to increased uterine atony (most commonly caused by prolonged induction)

Medical methods of control: oxytocin — may be ineffective after oxytocin induction; dose 40 U/L; may cause hypotension; methylergonovine (Methergine) — ergot alkaloid; dose 0.4 mg intramuscularly; causes systemic hypertension; carboprost (Hemabate) — prostaglandin F2α analogue; causes systemic and pulmonary vasoconstriction and bronchoconstriction; use with caution in patients with asthma; misoprostol (Cytotec) — historically administered rectally, but recent practice utilizes buccal or sublingual routes; has gastrointestinal side effects

Surgical methods of control: manual evacuation — stop uterotonic drugs, transfer to operating room, and provide RA or GA (based on hemodynamic status); resume uterotonic drugs after evacuation; uterine compression devices — intrauterine tamponade (with, eg, Bakri balloon, Sengstaken-Blakemore tube); embolization — for stable patient after vaginal delivery; surgeon should remain immediately available; temporary occlusion (2-6 wk) preserves fertility; laparotomy with or without hysterectomy — perform when derangement of vital signs exceeds that expected with EBL (suggesting uterine rupture or internal hemorrhage), or if conservative management unsuccessful; uterine sandwich — compression sutures plus balloon tamponade (imposing internal and external compression)

Cell salvage: theoretic concerns — amniotic fluid embolus, alloimmunization, and heparin contamination; single suction preferred (gave larger volume for reinfusion); minimal risk for alloimmunization seen with 0.8 mL fetal RBC in reinfusion pack (9 mL in maternal system after vaginal delivery)

Maternal trauma: leading cause of maternal death in developed countries; occurs in 6% to 7% of pregnancies, with 0.3% to 0.4% admitted to hospital; two-thirds due to motor vehicle accidents and 10% to 30% from falls or physical abuse; risk for serious abdominal injury increased (serious chest or head injuries less likely); most injuries blunt trauma; morbidity and mortality rates similar to those of nonpregnant patients; placental abruption most common cause (42%) of fetal death; fetal demise increases with increasing injury severity score, maternal shock, truncal injury, and vaginal bleeding; increased maternal blood volume may mask hypovolemia; pregnancy may elevate heart rate 10 to 15 bpm and decrease systolic blood pressure by 10 to 15 mm Hg, but hypotensive, tachycardic patient should be treated for hypovolemia; normal respiratory changes include elevated O2 consumption, decreased functional reserve capacity, increased minute ventilation, and pCO2 30 mm Hg; hypovolemia from uterine vasoconstriction may put fetus at risk; administer O2 on arrival to prevent fetal hypoxia and acidosis; hypocapnia and alkalosis can reduce O2 delivery to fetus; maternal analgesia reduces hyperventilation; give early thought to airway management, as massive resuscitation may exacerbate difficult airway

Initial assessment: maternal — follow Advanced Cardiac Life Support guidelines; hypovolemic shock associated with fetal mortality of 80%; fetal monitoring determines viability of pregnancy

Secondary survey: assess laboratory values; type and cross; administer immunoglobulin for Rh-negative patient; radiographic studies — should allow for viable fetus; fast examinations have sensitivity of 83% for intraperitoneal fluid in pregnant patient; computed tomography (CT) can lead to neonatal neoplastic effects (use with caution); indications for diagnostic laparotomy — same as for nonpregnant patients

Direct abdominal trauma: causes placental abruption in 66% of cases (consider abruption in suddenly unstable anesthetized patient); standard of care dictates continuous FHR monitoring and tocodynamometry; negative predictive value 100% for pain-free patient with normal FHR and tocodynamometer tracing

Reasons for delivery: control hemorrhage, enable exposure of nonobstetric injuries, or for unstable spinal injury; with emergent delivery, infant survival 45% and maternal survival 72%; in cases of maternal cardiac arrest, make decision to deliver within 4 min (may aid maternal resuscitation)

Intraoperative management: secure airway; risks for difficult intubation, aspiration, and hypoxia elevated; perform left uterine displacement to prevent uterine aortocaval compression; use laboratory values to guide product administration

Preservation of pregnancy: optimize uteroplacental blood flow if delivery delayed; maintain blood pressure with vasopressors (eg, ephedrine, phenylephrine); avoid maternal hypovolemia and hypoxia; severe hypercapnia can cause myocardial depression and hypotension in fetus; normothermia beneficial to coagulation status; FHR — can be monitored at 18 wk gestation; variability present at 24 to 27 wk; trained personnel should monitor and make decisions; have plan if FHR tracing becomes unstable (delivery vs continued monitoring); discuss case with obstetrician; obtain preoperative FHR to ascertain viability, and establish postoperative FHR and tocodynamometry

Transfusion therapy: based on trauma studies; early initiation of blood components prevents dilutional coagulopathy; hypotensive resuscitation may be attempted, but must be modified based on fetal wellbeing; transfuse using 1:1:1 ratio of PRBCs to FFP to platelets

Recombinant factor VIIa: approved by Food and Drug Administration (FDA) only for hemophilia patients; has potential for thromboembolic complications; expensive ($10,000 per dose); its use for maternal bleeding (often, low tissue factor states) described in many case reports; results inconclusive (based on biased studies)

Tranexamic acid: inhibits plasminogen activation and plasmin activity, which prevents clot breakdown; contraindicated in disseminated intravascular coagulation; CRASH-2 study saw reduction in all-cause mortality of 9%, with no increase in vascular occlusive events; also associated with slightly decreased blood loss in normal cesarian deliveries, decreased need for uterotonic drugs, increased hemoglobin 24 hr postoperatively, and faster cessation of PPH

Conclusions: treat stable patients like other obstetric patients, but have backup plan in place and maintain extra precautions (eg, large bore IV); treat unstable patients like trauma patients (utilize surgical and medical methods of hemorrhage control); cell salvage safe and effective; special needs of pregnant trauma patients include changes in ventilator settings, left uterine displacement, and possible fetal monitoring or delivery

Analgesia During Labor

Robert R. Gaiser, MD, MSEd, Professor and Program Director, Department of Anesthesiology and Critical Care, Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia

Definition of labor: pathophysiologic process in which sufficiently frequent, strong uterine contractions cause thinning and dilation of cervix, permitting passage of fetus from uterus through birth canal; 2 components of labor (cervical dilation and uterine contraction) account for sensation; original Friedman labor curve represented period of minimal cervical dilation followed by rapid cervical dilation; currently, onset of contractions to cervical dilation considered stage 1, and complete cervical dilation to delivery of baby considered stage 2; original curve developed when most parturients <70 kg and without epidurals (1950s), and does not apply to current patients; modern curve shows more linear progression through first stage of labor; with epidural, duration of stage 1 4 hr (stage 2 1 hr)

First stage of labor: visceral pain, primarily result of dilation of cervix, with small component from mechanical receptors; nerves pass through paracervical region and synapse in lamina 5 of dorsal horn; cutaneous fibers from T10 to L1 also synapse in lamina 5 of dorsal horn; pain referred to T10 to L1 distribution (nonspecific sensation)

Second stage of labor: somatic pain occurs as baby descends through birth canal, causing stretching of fascia, skin, subcutaneous tissue, and other somatic structures; localized pain in perineum caused by pudendal nerve (synapses at S2-S4); anesthetic plan must address T10 to L1 (stage 1) and S2 to S4 (stage 2)

Chronic pain after delivery: chronic postsurgical pain known entity (after, eg, breast surgery, thoracotomy, inguinal hernia); cohort study reveals 10% of women complain of acute pain 36 hr postdelivery; 10% of women also report pain 8 wk postpartum; patients become hypersensitized during immediate postpartum period; prevention of acute postpartum pain theorized to decrease chronic pain associated with vaginal delivery

Informed consent: courts upheld maternal consent during labor; birth plan not informed consent, and active experience of labor may influence decisions

Techniques for epidural placement: ultrasonography — complicated, with prolonged learning curve; not often used; study found distance from skin to epidural space decreased in Asian population, compared with black population (accidental dural puncture more common in Asian patients)

Loss of resistance to air vs saline: 50% of providers use air and 50% use saline; no difference found in incidence of accidental dural puncture; risk for postdural puncture headache (PDPH) markedly higher in air group vs saline group: PDPH caused by air in intrathecal space (has rapid onset); technique during study used full 5 mL of air; technique safe if least amount of air possible used (ie, syringe not emptied); meta-analysis shows no difference in outcome, number of attempts, paresthesias, or accidental dural puncture; injection of saline (3-5 mL) into epidural space before introducing catheter decreases probability of cannulation of epidural vein

Input from patient: among morbidly obese patients, often helpful in identifying midline

Sleep deprivation: study reveals no difference in time to placement, number of attempts, or complications when comparing providers at beginning or end of 24-hr shifts; more providers harmed by 24-hr call than patients

Infectious complications: epidural abscessincidence high following neuraxial anesthesia in obstetric population; collection of pus in epidural space compressing spinal cord; incidence 1 in 200,000; more common in immunocompromised patients; most common organisms Staphylococcus aureus and Staphylococcus epidermidis (skin flora); meningitis — presents with headache 8 hr to 8 days after dural puncture (similar to PDPH); aggressive approach indicated if fever present; generally occurs in healthy people; causative agent α-hemolytic streptococci (respiratory organism); mask should be worn during epidural placement and changed between patients (case of maternal death from meningitis documented in which organism cultured from respiratory track of anesthesiologist)

Preparation of skin: chlorhexidine not approved by FDA;, culture positive 1 in 3 times after iodine preparation (air dried), but only 1 in 10 times after chlorhexidine preparation; adding alcohol yields even better results; FDA approval withheld because chlorhexidine causes irreversible conduction of phrenic nerve in rats, and documentation of one case of aseptic meningitis

Labor analgesia: guidelines — goal of least amount of motor block possible (decreases risk for operative vaginal delivery); multiple infusates available; Cochrane review confirms epidural results in improved pain relief, reduced neonatal acidosis, increased incidence of assisted vaginal delivery (due to motor block), and higher incidence of hypotension, compared with no epidural

Patient-controlled epidural analgesia (PCEA): associated with fewer interventions and less local anesthetic use, compared with continuous infusion; pain with pushing slightly higher with PCEA, but no difference in satisfaction rates reported

Automated bolus: study randomized patients to 2.5 mL every 15 min, 5 mL every 30 min, or 10 mL every 60 min, with same infusate; patients receiving 10 mL bolus most comfortable; larger bolus produces increased spread in epidural space, with improved sacral anesthesia; speaker now uses low continuous rate (5-6 mL/hr), with 8 mL bolus every 20 min or 10 mL bolus every 30 min


Dr. Grondin was recorded at the 17th Annual Vermont Perspectives in Anesthesia, held March 7-11, 2012, in Stowe, VT, and sponsored by the University of Vermont College of Medicine. Dr. Gaiser was recorded at Scottsdale Anesthesia: New Developments and Controversies, held October 21-25, 2012, in Scottsdale, AZ, and sponsored by Holiday Seminars. For information on upcoming meetings sponsored by University of Vermont College of Medicine, please visit, and for those sponsored by Holiday Seminars, visit (or check our website,, under “Upcoming Meetings”). The Audio-Digest Foundation thanks the speakers and the sponsors for their cooperation in the production of this program.

Suggested Reading

Allam J et al: Cell salvage in obstetrics. Int J Obstet Anesth 2008 Jan;17(1):37-45; Baird EJ, Arkoosh VA: Hemodynamic effects of aortocaval compression and uterine contractions in a parturient with left ventricular outflow tract obstruction. Anesthesiology 2012 Oct;117(4):879; Balki M et al: Ultrasound imaging of the lumbar spine in the transverse plane: the correlation between estimated and actual depth to the epidural space in obese parturients. Anesth Analg 2009 Jun;108(6):1876-81; Broaddus BM, Chandrasekhar S: Informed consent in obstetric anesthesia. Anesth Analg 2011 Apr;112(4):912-5; CRASH-2 trial collaborators et al: Effects of tranexamic acid on death, vascular occlusive events, and blood transfusion in trauma patients with significant haemorrhage (CRASH-2): a randomised, placebo-controlled trial. Lancet 2010 Jul 3;376(9734):23-32; D’Alonzo RC et al: Ethnicity and the distance to the epidural space in parturients. Reg Anesth Pain Med 2008 Jan-Feb;33(1):24-9; Frigo MG et al: Rebuilding the labor curve during neuraxial analgesia. J Obstet Gynaecol Res 2011 Nov;37(11):1532-9; Gutierrez MC et al: Postpartum hemorrhage treated with a massive transfusion protocol at a tertiary obstetric center: a retrospective study. Int J Obstet Anesth 2012 Jul;21(3):230-5; Halpern SH, Abdallah FW: Effect of labor analgesia on labor outcome. Curr Opin Anaesthesiol 2010 Jun;23(3):317-22; Hill CC, Pickinpaugh J: Trauma and surgical emergencies in the obstetric patient. Surg Clin North Am 2008 Apr;88(2):421-40, viii; Hong RW. Less is more: the recent history of neuraxial labor analgesia. Am J Ther 2010 Sep-Oct;17(5):492-7; Liumbruno GM et al: Intraoperative cell salvage in obstetrics: is it a real therapeutic option? Transfusion 2011 Oct;51(10):2244-56; Marroquin BM et al: Can parturients identify the midline during neuraxial block placement? J Clin Anesth 2011 Feb;23(1):3-6; Patanwala AE: Factor VIIa (recombinant) for acute traumatic hemorrhage. Am J Health Syst Pharm 2008 Sep 1;65(17):1616-23; Scavone BM et al: The influence of time of day of administration on duration of opioid labor analgesia. Anesth Analg 2010 Oct;111(4):986-91; Schier R et al: Epidural space identification: a meta-analysis of complications after air versus liquid as the medium for loss of resistance. Anesth Analg 2009 Dec;109(6):2012-21; Snegovskikh D et al: Anesthetic management of patients with placenta accreta and resuscitation strategies for associated massive hemorrhage. Curr Opin Anaesthesiol 2011 Jun;24(3):274-81; Stallard TC, Burns B: Emergency delivery and perimortem C-section. Emerg Med Clin North Am 2003 Aug;21(3):679-93; Werawatganon T, Charuluxanun S: Patient controlled intravenous opioid analgesia versus continuous epidural analgesia for pain after intra-abdominal surgery. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2005 Jan 25;(1):CD004088; Yank V et al: Systematic review: benefits and harms of in-hospital use of recombinant factor VIIa for off-label indications. Ann Intern Med 2011 Apr 19;154(8):529-40

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