October 21, 2008

Odds Of Anesthesia-Related Death During Childbirth Drop

New findings reported at the American Society of Anesthesiologists annual meeting in Orlando, Florida show that the odds of death occurring during childbirth due to anesthesia use have dropped to about one in a million.

"Anesthetic deaths are a very rare cause of maternal mortality in the United States, but even one death is important and should be prevented," said Dr. Joy L. Hawkins, professor of anesthesiology at the University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine, who led the study.

The study consisted of analysis of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Pregnancy Mortality Surveillance project for 1997 through 2002.

Over the 6-year study period, a total of 49 pregnancy-related deaths due to anesthesia were reported. Thirty-one were associated with live births or still births and 16 were associated with abortion; one was an ectopic pregnancy and one had missing information.

Eighty percent of the anesthesia-related deaths during childbirth were associated with cesarean delivery.

Six of the anesthesia-related deaths occurred during general anesthesia and 18 during local or regional anesthesia.

Previous studies had been more skeptical about a possible link between anesthesia and death during childbirth.

However, researchers noted that the new data suggests that the safety of general anesthesia has improved.

"I think anesthesiologists have done a very good job of looking at the ways we could improve care, especially during general anesthesia," Hawkins said, while adding that improvements are still needed.

"We hope to continue working with the CDC to monitor these cases and look for further ways to improve," Hawkins said.


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