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Effect of combined spinal-epidural ambulatory labor analgesia on balance

Anesthesiology 91(2): 436-441
Effect of combined spinal-epidural ambulatory labor analgesia on balance
Background: Low-dose combined spinal-epidural analgesia in labor has proved popular with women because lower-limb motor power is preserved, allowing ambulation. However, there has been debate about the safety of allowing women to walk following low-dose regional analgesia because of somatosensory impairment. The authors undertook a prospective controlled observational study using computerized dynamic posturography to examine balance function in pregnant women after combined spinal-epidural analgesia. Methods: The authors performed posturographic testing on 44 women in labor after institution of regional analgesia and compared them with a control group of 44 pregnant women. A separate group of six women were tested both before and after combined spinal-epidural analgesia. Results: Neurologic examination after regional analgesia showed two parturients (4%) to have motor weakness (excluded from posturography). Four women (9%) had clinical dorsal column sensory loss; these women all completed posturography. The spinal-epidural analgesia group showed a small, statistically significant reduction in one of six posturographic sensory-organization tests; however, this difference was functionally minor. There were no other differences in posturography between the control and spinal-epidural groups. Similar results were found in the paired study, in which there was minimal change in balance function after spinal-epidural analgesia. Conclusions: This is the first study to objectively examine the effect of spinal-epidural analgesia on balance function. Using computerized dynamic posturography, the authors were unable to find any functional impairment of balance function after spinal-epidural ambulatory analgesia in women in labor who had no clinical evidence of motor block.

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Accession: 010519676

PMID: 10443607

DOI: 10.1097/00000542-199908000-00018

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