The objective of this systematic review was to assess the effectiveness and safety of ephedrine compared with control when given prophylactically to prevent hypotension during spinal anesthesia for Cesarean delivery.
Randomized, controlled trials obtained through MEDLINE, EMBASE, the Cochrane Controlled Trials Registry, contact with leading experts, and a reference list of published articles were analyzed. The following keywords were utilized: spinal anesthesia, hypotension, Cesarean section, pregnancy complications, pregnancy outcome, fetal outcome, neonatal outcome, umbilical blood cord gases, vasopressor and ephedrine. Clinical trials were considered if they compared prophylactic ephedrine, given by any dose or route, vs control.
The 14 clinical trials identified included data from a total of 641 patients. Ephedrine was more effective than control for preventing hypotension (relative risk [RR], 0.73; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.63 to 0.86). Most importantly, there was no difference in the risk of fetal acidosis, defined as umbilical arterial pH < 7.2 (RR, 1.36; 95% CI, 0.55 to 3.35) or the incidence of low Apgar scores (< 7 or < 8) at one minute (RR, 0.77; 95% CI, 0.29 to 2.06) and five minutes (RR, 0.72; 95% CI, 0.24 to 2.19).
Prophylactic ephedrine is more effective than control for preventing hypotension during spinal anesthesia for elective Cesarean delivery but a clinically relevant positive effect on neonatal outcome was not observed. Therefore, the routine use of prophylactic ephedrine to prevent any adverse effects of maternal hypotension following spinal anesthesia for Cesarean delivery is not supported by the current systematic review.
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