Placental transfer and fetal metabolic effects of phenylephrine and ephedrine during spinal anesthesia for cesarean delivery.Anesthesiology. 2009 Sep; 111(3):506-12.A
Use of ephedrine in obstetric patients is associated with depression of fetal acid-base status. The authors hypothesized that the mechanism underlying this is transfer of ephedrine across the placenta and stimulation of metabolism in the fetus.
A total of 104 women having elective Cesarean delivery under spinal anesthesia randomly received infusion of phenylephrine (100 microg/ml) or ephedrine (8 mg/ml) titrated to maintain systolic blood pressure near baseline. At delivery, maternal arterial, umbilical arterial, and umbilical venous blood samples were taken for measurement of blood gases and plasma concentrations of phenylephrine, ephedrine, lactate, glucose, epinephrine, and norepinephrine.
In the ephedrine group, umbilical arterial and umbilical venous pH and base excess were lower, whereas umbilical arterial and umbilical venous plasma concentrations of lactate, glucose, epinephrine, and norepinephrine were greater. Umbilical arterial Pco2 and umbilical venous Po2 were greater in the ephedrine group. Placental transfer was greater for ephedrine (median umbilical venous/maternal arterial plasma concentration ratio 1.13 vs. 0.17). The umbilical arterial/umbilical venous plasma concentration ratio was greater for ephedrine (median 0.83 vs. 0.71).
Ephedrine crosses the placenta to a greater extent and undergoes less early metabolism and/or redistribution in the fetus compared with phenylephrine. The associated increased fetal concentrations of lactate, glucose, and catecholamines support the hypothesis that depression of fetal pH and base excess with ephedrine is related to metabolic effects secondary to stimulation of fetal beta-adrenergic receptors. Despite historical evidence suggesting uteroplacental blood flow may be better maintained with ephedrine, the overall effect of the vasopressors on fetal oxygen supply and demand balance may favor phenylephrine.