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Papers of the Week

Papers: 3 Jun 2023 - 9 Jun 2023


Human Studies, Molecular/Cellular, Neurobiology

Abdominal/Pelvic Pain, Psychological/Comorbidities

2023 Jun 05

Cochrane Database Syst Rev



Automated mandatory bolus versus basal infusion for maintenance of epidural analgesia in labour.


Tan HS, Zeng Y, Qi Y, Sultana R, Tan CW, Sia AT, Sng BL, Siddiqui FJ


Epidural analgesia is often used for pain relief during labour and childbirth, and involves administration of local anaesthetics (LA) into the epidural space resulting in sensory blockade of the abdomen, pelvis, and perineum. Epidural opioids are often co-administered to improve analgesia. Administration of epidural medications can be accomplished by basal infusion (BI) or automated mandatory bolus (AMB). With BI, medications are administered continuously, while AMB involves injecting medications at set time intervals. Patient-controlled epidural analgesia (PCEA) on top of AMB or BI enables patients to initiate additional boluses of epidural medications.  The superior method of delivering epidural medications would result in lower incidence of pain requiring anaesthesiologist intervention (breakthrough pain). Also, it should be associated with lower incidence of epidural-related adverse effects including caesarean delivery, instrumental delivery (use of forceps or vacuum devices), prolonged duration of labour analgesia, and LA consumption. However, clear evidence of the superiority of one technique over the other is lacking. Also, differences in the initiation of epidural analgesia such as combined spinal-epidural (CSE) (medications given into the intrathecal space in addition to the epidural space) compared to epidural only, and medications used (types and doses of LA or opioids) may not have been accounted for in previous reviews.  Our prior systematic review suggested that AMB reduces the incidence of breakthrough pain compared to BI with no significant difference in the incidence of caesarean delivery or instrumental delivery, duration of labour analgesia, and LA consumption. However, several studies comparing AMB and BI have been performed since then, and inclusion of their data may improve the precision of our effect estimates.