Background and objective: To determine the optimal concentration of ropivacaine for bolus-only patient-controlled epidural labour analgesia, three different doses of ropivacaine were evaluated in comparison with bupivacaine in a double-blinded multicentre study.
Methods: Four hundred-and-fifty labouring parturients at term in three different academic institutions were randomized to four groups receiving bupivacaine 0.125% with sufentanil 0.75 μg mL−1, ropivacaine 0.125% or 0.175% with sufentanil 0.75 μg mL−1, or ropivacaine 0.2%. After an initial bolus of 10 mL of the study solution, and once visual analogue scores (VAS) were below 30 mm, patient-controlled epidural analgesia was initiated with a bolus of 4 mL, a lockout interval of 15 min and without a background infusion. Variables studied were the quality of analgesia, incidence of side-effects, the degree of motor blockade, and the mode of delivery.
Results: Bupivacaine 0.125% and ropivacaine 0.125% with sufentanil proved equally effective in providing labour analgesia without a difference in local anaesthetic consumption (48.6 ± 23 mg bupivacaine vs. 52.1 ± 38 mg ropivacaine), motor blockade or mode of delivery. Ropivacaine 0.175% plus sufentanil enhanced the quality of analgesia of the initial loading dose, whereas ropivacaine 0.2% without sufentanil increased the consumption of local anaesthetics (80.2 ± 34 mg; P < 0.05) and the degree of motor blockade.
Conclusion: Despite recent studies indicating that bupivacaine and ropivacaine may not be equipotent, both local anaesthetics provided equi-effective analgesia at equal doses without a difference in side-effects.