Epidural analgesia is associated with intrapartum hyperthermia, and chorioamnionitis is associated with neonatal brain injury. However, it is not known if epidural hyperthermia is associated with neonatal brain injury. This systematic review and meta-analysis investigated three questions: (1) does epidural analgesia cause intrapartum hyperthermia, (2) is intrapartum hyperthermia associated with neonatal brain injury, and (3) is epidural-induced hyperthermia associated with neonatal brain injury?
PubMed, ISI Web of Knowledge, The Cochrane Library, and Embase were searched from inception to January 2020 using Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) terms relating to epidural analgesia, hyperthermia, labour, and neonatal brain injury. Studies were reviewed independently for inclusion and quality by two authors (Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development and Evaluation (GRADE) approach). Two meta-analyses were performed using the Mantel-Haenszel fixed effect method to generate odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs).
Forty-one studies were included for Question 1 (646 296 participants), 36 for Question 2 (11 866 021 participants), and two studies for Question 3 (297 113 participants). When the mode of analgesia was randomised, epidural analgesia was associated with intrapartum hyperthermia (OR: 4.21; 95% CI: 3.48-5.09). There was an association between intrapartum hyperthermia and neonatal brain injury (OR: 2.79; 95% CI: 2.54-2.3.06). It was not possible to quantify the association between epidural-induced hyperthermia and neonatal brain injury.
Epidural analgesia is a cause of intrapartum hyperthermia, and intrapartum hyperthermia of any cause is associated with neonatal brain injury. Further work is required to establish if epidural-induced hyperthermia is a cause of neonatal brain injury.