Epidural test dose with levobupivacaine and ropivacaine: determination of ED(50) motor block after spinal administration

M Camorcia, G Capogna, G Lyons, M Columb
British Journal of Anaesthesia 2004, 92 (6): 850-3

BACKGROUND: When a test is required to detect a possible intrathecal catheter, many would seek to use the same local anaesthetic as that used for epidural analgesia. The rapid onset of inappropriate motor block after a local anaesthetic administered epidurally implies intrathecal spread. Because of claims of greater sensory-motor separation, or because of reduced potency compared with bupivacaine, the efficacy of the new local anaesthetics in intrathecal testing has been questioned. The aim of this study was to establish the feasibility of a test dose for an inadvertent intrathecal catheter using ropivacaine and levobupivacaine, and to establish the dose required.

METHODS: Sixty women undergoing elective Caesarean section with a combined spinal- epidural technique were enrolled into this prospective, double-blind sequential allocation study. The women were randomized to receive plain levobupivacaine 0.5% or ropivacaine 0.5% intrathecally. The dose was determined according to up-down sequential allocation. The end-point was any evidence of lower limb motor block within 5 min of injection.

RESULTS: The ED(50) motor block at 5 min was 4.8 mg (95% CI, 4.49, 5.28) for levobupivacaine and 5.9 mg (95% CI, 4.82, 6.98) for ropivacaine (95% CI difference, 0.052, 1.98) (P=0.04). The estimated ED(95) motor block was 5.9 mg (95% CI 5.19, 6.71) for levobupivacaine and 8.3 mg (95% CI, 6.30, 10.44) for ropivacaine. The potency ratio between the two drugs was 0.83 (95% CI, 0.69, 0.99).

CONCLUSIONS: Both local anaesthetics produce evidence of motor block within 5 min of intrathecal injection and could serve as tests of intrathecal administration. Derived ED(95) values suggest 10 mg doses should be effective, but this study did not measure predictive value. Ropivacaine is less potent for motor block than levobupivacaine by a factor of 0.83 (P<0.04).

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