Anesthetic Management in Caesarean Delivery of Women With Placenta Previa

A Retrospective Cohort Study

Dazhi Fan; Jiaming Rao; Dongxin Lin; Huishan Zhang; Zixing Zhou; Gengdong Chen; Pengsheng Li; Wen Wang; Ting Chen; Fengying Chen; Yuping Ye; Xiaoling Guo; Zhengping Liu


BMC Anesthesiol. 2021;21(247) 

In This Article


In this retrospective analysis of 1234 women with placenta previa, we found that neuraxial anesthesia is associated with several benefits during cesarean delivery in our population, including decreased blood loss, lower need for blood product transfusion, and increased neonatal Apgar score, lower neonatal asphyxia and admission to NICU. We also found anesthesia-to-delivery interval had little influence on the results of the study.

The main strength of the present study is related to the relevant lager sample size in a single center during a relatively short time. Meanwhile, confounding factors were controlled by multivariable analysis to make the results more believable. Further, cases with placenta previa complication with PAS were excluded to recalculate to show the stability of the results. An obvious limitation of the study is its single center retrospective nature and the inherent limitations of retrospective data collection. While we made all efforts to objectively compare anesthesia outcomes between the two groups, it must be acknowledged that the groups likely differed in a priori anesthesia risks. Low-risk patients will be given regional and higher-risk patients a general anesthetic and it is impossible to retrospectively correct for this inevitable bias. In addition, we learned a lot about surgical and anesthetic techniques, as well caring for these patients over the study period and this may have influenced outcomes, including blood loss.

Placenta previa carried a significant risk of antepartum hemorrhage. Our 2017 systematic review and meta-analysis of 29 observational studies found that above half of placenta previa women had antepartum hemorrhage.[16] This cohort finding regarding antepartum hemorrhage is congruent with the previous meta-analysis. Placenta previa women undergoing a general anesthetic have lower preoperative hemoglobin concentration which could be related to their higher incidence of antepartum hemorrhage. Fortunately, there was a little difference in hemoglobin pre- and post-operative and had not found a difference between the postoperative hemoglobin concentration and the two groups. A possible explanation for these findings was that blood transfusion play a big role during labor and delivery. Therefore, adequate blood supply was essential for pregnant women with heavy bleeding and high risk of bleeding, such as placenta previa.

The relationship between anesthesia-to-delivery interval and adverse maternal and neonatal outcomes has been reported in retrospective studies.[10,17] Delivery within 27 min of anesthesia start was associated with umbilical arterial pH > 7.1, and delivery within 30 min was associated with umbilical arterial pH > 7.0.[17] In a retrospective cohort study, the authors found that prolonged anesthesia-to-delivery interval was associated with an increased relative risk for neonatal acidosis in planned cesarean deliveries.[17]

We found the anesthesia-to-delivery interval was longer in the general anesthesia group. This result was inconsistent with perception. Cystoscopy and separate the adherent abdominal tissue would consume a lot of time in severe patients, such as complication with PAS. That's why when we excluded patients with PAS, the difference was disappear between the two groups. The general anesthesia women have higher incidence of unfavorable maternal and neonatal outcomes which could be related to their longer anesthesia-to-delivery time. However, after adjusting the anesthesia-to-delivery interval, there has been no real change in the unfavorable maternal and neonatal outcomes between the two groups.

Our data showed that neuraxial anesthesia was associated with better maternal and neonatal outcomes, including less blood loss and transfusion and lower rate of neonatal asphyxia and admission to NICU. Both the patients' background and the type of anesthesia may have influenced the results. A significantly higher risk of most complications was found in women who had a general anesthesia. The proportion placenta accreta spectrum, anterior placenta and other risk factors are higher in general group. These factors can aggravate maternal and neonatal outcomes.[18–21] In addition, retrospective and prospective studies also suggested that neuraxial anesthesia is associated with less blood loss and transfusion requirements.[13,22,23] Hong JY et al.[13] reported that neuraxial anesthesia received a significantly smaller transfusion than the general anesthesia for patients with placenta previa. Frederiksen MC et al.[22] also found neuraxial anesthesia decreased intraoperative blood loss and the need for blood transfusion in women with placenta previa. Meanwhile, Parekh N et al.[23] found neuraxial anesthesia was associated with a significantly reduced estimated blood loss and reduced need for blood transfusion from a larger consecutive placenta previa cases study.

A major limitation of previous studies is lack of control for confounding factors that are also associated with important outcomes such as blood loss. Given the major baseline differences between the two anesthetic groups, we offered the opportunity to assess these factors in detail through multivariable analysis in this a large single-center study. PAS is a very different from placenta previa regarding management. We further excluded placenta previa complication with PAS to evaluate the results and the results did not materially change. These suggested that neuraxial anesthesia was associated with several benefits during cesarean delivery for placenta previa women.

Placenta previa is the most common cause of massive obstetric hemorrhage and is associated with an increased incidence of massive transfusion, prolonged surgery and length of hospital stay.[24] A multi-disciplinary team (including obstetricians, neonatologists, midwives, anesthetists, critical care staff, ect.) should be approached to management of these patients. Placenta previa will become more frequently encountered by obstetric anesthetics in the future.

Both general and neuraxial anesthesia options have advantages and disadvantages for patients with placenta previa. The ideal anesthetic choice for patients with placenta previa should require individualized planning based on patients', anesthetic and surgical factors. Patient factors include pregnant women's preference, predicted difficult airway and contraindications to neuraxial anesthesia, and surgical factors include imaging interpretation predicting extensive or prolonged surgery.