Complications of anesthesia for cesarean delivery

Steven L. Bloom, Catherine Y. Spong, Steven J. Weiner, Mark B. Landon, Dwight J. Rouse, Michael W. Varner, Atef H. Moawad, Steve N. Caritis, Margaret Harper, Ronald J. Wapner, Yoram Sorokin, Menachem Miodovnik, Mary J. O'Sullivan, Baha Sibai, Oded Langer, Steven G. Gabbe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

78 Scopus citations


Objective: To quantify anesthesia-related complications associated with cesarean delivery in a well-described, prospectively ascertained cohort from multiple university-based hospitals in the United States and to evaluate whether certain factors would identify women at increased risk for a failed regional anesthetic. Methods: A prospective observational study was conducted of women (n = 37,142) with singleton gestations undergoing cesarean delivery in the centers forming the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Maternal-Fetal Medicine Units Network. Detailed information was collected regarding choice of anesthesia and procedure-related complications, including failed regional anesthetic and maternal death. Potential risk factors for a failed regional anesthetic were analyzed. Results: Of the women studied, 34,615 (93%) received a regional anesthetic. Few (3.0%) regional procedures failed, and related maternal morbidity was rare. Increased maternal size, higher preoperative risk, rapid decision-to-incision interval, and placement later in labor were all significantly related to an increased risk of a failed regional procedure. Of the general anesthetics, 38% were administered when the decision-to-incision interval was less than 15 minutes. Women deemed at the greatest preoperative risk (American Society of Anesthesiologists score ≥ 4) were approximately 7-fold more likely to receive a general anesthetic (odds ratio 6.9, 95% confidence interval 5.83-8.07). There was one maternal death, due to a failed intubation, in which the anesthetic procedure was directly implicated. Conclusion: Regional techniques have become the preferred method of anesthesia for cesarean delivery. Procedure-related complications are rare and attest to the safety of modern obstetric anesthesia for cesarean delivery in the United States.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)281-287
Number of pages7
JournalObstetrics and gynecology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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