Bupivacaine is an amide local anaesthetic used in hyperbaric and isobaric forms. These are administered intrathecally into the spine to provide regional anaesthesia for caesarean section. Several trials have compared hyperbaric and isobaric bupivacaine but none have conclusively shown the benefit of either. This review was first published in 2013 and updated in 2016.
Our objectives were to:1. Determine the effectiveness of hyperbaric bupivacaine compared to isobaric bupivacaine for spinal anaesthesia in women undergoing caesarean section;2. Determine the safety of hyperbaric bupivacaine compared to isobaric bupivacaine for spinal anaesthesia in women undergoing caesarean section.
We originally searched the following databases to January 2011: CENTRAL, MEDLINE and Embase.For this update, we reran our search in the above databases from January 2011 to March 2016; two studies are awaiting a response from authors for assessment and will be dealt with when we next update the review.We imposed no language restriction.
We included all randomized controlled trials (RCTs) involving parturients undergoing spinal anaesthesia for elective caesarean section that compared the use of hyperbaric with isobaric bupivacaine.
Two authors independently extracted the data. The data that were extracted included the number of events and the sample sizes in both the intervention and control groups. For continuous outcomes, we extracted mean and standard deviation.We reported odds ratios (ORs) and risk ratios (RRs) for binary outcomes, and mean differences (MDs) for continuous outcomes.
We included three new RCTs in this update, which now comprises 10 studies with a total of 614 participants. We judged most trials as having uncertain risk of bias regarding randomization. Other than this, the overall risk of bias was low. Most included trials had small sample sizes. All of the trials assessed the primary outcome of conversion to general anaesthesia. Ten trials comparing anaesthesia performed with hyperbaric and isobaric bupivacaine failed to show any difference in need for conversion to general anaesthesia (RR 0.33, 95% CI 0.09 to 1.17, 614 participants, very low quality of evidence). Nine trials also failed to show a difference in the need for supplemental analgesics (RR 0.61, 95% CI 0.26 to 1.41, 554 participants, very low quality of evidence). Four trials comparing requirement for ephedrine did not show any difference (RR 0.89, 95% CI 0.57 to 1.38, 256 participants, very low quality of evidence). Seven trials did not provide convincing evidence of difference in nausea and vomiting (RR 0.99, 95% CI 0.57 to 1.72, 433 participants, low quality of evidence). Three trials failed to show a difference in headache (OR 1.82, 95% CI 0.47 to 6.99, 234 participants, low quality of evidence). Two trials showed that the time until sensory block to the thoracic 4th (T4) spinal level was shorter with hyperbaric bupivacaine (MD -1.06 minutes, 95% CI -1.80 to -0.31, 128 participants, moderate quality of evidence). Six trials showed no difference in the amount of ephedrine used (RR 0.23, 95% CI -1.65 to 2.12, 386 participants, moderate quality of evidence). Three trials failed to show any difference in high block (RR 0.88, 95% CI 0.16 to 4.90, 205 participants).
Data are limited for some of the outcomes. Reporting of the included trials is less than optimal. For these reasons the overall quality of evidence is low or very low for most of the outcomes, based on the GRADE method of assessment. This review found that intrathecal hyperbaric bupivacaine had a more rapid onset of sensory blockade at the 4th thoracic vertebra (T4) level than isobaric bupivacaine. Hower, despite incorporating more data in the analysis, we found little evidence that the need for conversion to general anaesthesia and supplemental analgesia differed between the hyperbaric or isobaric bupivacaine groups. This is mainly due to the rarity of these outcomes, variability in the dose, use of adjuvant drugs and differences in the technique used for regional anaesthesia. There were no differences in the adverse effects studied. Any possible advantage of hyperbaric bupivacaine needs to be confirmed in larger randomized trials. In future research, criteria for conversion to general anaesthesia need to be defined objectively and applied uniformly.