Clinical effects and maternal and fetal plasma concentrations of epidural ropivacaine versus bupivacaine for cesarean section

S Datta, W Camann, A Bader, L VanderBurgh
Anesthesiology 1995, 82 (6): 1346-52

BACKGROUND: Ropivacaine is a new amide local anesthetic structurally similar to bupivacaine and mepivacaine. Previous studies showed that ropivacaine has a similar clinical effect as bupivacaine with regard to sensory anesthesia and slightly less motor blockade than bupivacaine. Ropivacaine appears to be less cardiotoxic and arrhythmogenic than bupivacaine. The clinical and pharmacokinetic effects of 0.5% ropivacaine (5 mg/ml) versus 0.5% bupivacaine (5 mg/ml) when used epidurally for elective cesarean section were investigated.

METHODS: Using a randomized, double-blind study design, 60 ASA physical status 1 or 2 term parturients presenting for elective cesarean section received either 0.5% bupivacaine (150 mg) or 0.5% ropivacaine (150 mg) epidurally in appropriate fractionated doses over a 10-min period. Onset, duration, and regression of sensory and motor blockade were noted until complete resolution was observed. Quality of intraoperative anesthesia and abdominal wall muscle relaxation were noted. Maternal plasma concentrations of local anesthetic were determined before anesthetic administration and 5, 10, 20, 30, and 60 min and 2, 3, 6, 8, 12, and 24 h after drug injection in 20 subjects. Umbilical cord blood was obtained at time of delivery for acid-base values and determination of the free and total plasma concentration of local anesthetic. Neonates also were examined for neurobehavioral assessments by Scanlon's and Neurologic and Adaptive Capacity Scores at 2 and 24 h after delivery.

RESULTS: All patients received satisfactory anesthesia for operation. The onset, duration, and regression of sensory blockade were similar for both groups. Onset of degree 1 and 2 motor blockade was faster, and duration of degree 1 motor block was longer in the group receiving bupivacaine. Hemodynamic sequelae were similar between groups. All neonates had 5-min Apgar scores of 7 or greater and normal acid-base values and neurobehavioral assessments. Pharmacokinetic analysis showed that the Cmax was similar for both drugs (1.3 +/- 0.09 for ropivacaine and 1.1 +/- 0.09 micrograms/ml for bupivacaine). The T1/2 of the terminal decline in plasma concentration was shorter for ropivacaine versus bupivacaine (5.2 +/- 0.60 versus 10.9 +/- 1.08 h, respectively; P < 0.01). The free (i.e., unbound) concentrations of ropivacaine were approximately twice those of bupivacaine in both maternal and neonatal blood at the time of delivery. The ratio of umbilical vein to maternal vein concentration of unbound drug was 0.72 for ropivacaine and 0.69 for bupivacaine.

CONCLUSIONS: Ropivacaine, 0.5%, epidurally provided satisfactory and similar sensory anesthesia compared to 0.5% bupivacaine for elective cesarean section. The Cmax was similar for both drugs, although the terminal half-life of ropivacaine was significantly shorter, and the blood concentrations of free ropivacaine were significantly greater than that for bupivacaine. These values were less than concentrations shown to be toxic in animals.

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