NW Week

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Epidural shortage raising concerns across Canada

A lack of epidurals is creating worry across Canada.

Key Takeaways:

  • Health Canada has named epidural catheters as one of the medical supplies that are in short supply, which is concerning to medical practitioners.
  • Vice President of the Canadian Anesthesiologist Society, Filteau. She claims that, generally, between 50 and 60 percent of labours involve the use of an epidural.
  • In preparation for the birth of her first child, Arianna Fierling is worried about the potential of labouring without an epidural.

One of the most challenging experiences a person can go through is childbirth and more than half of these labors use one particular pain relief technique: an epidural injection.

However, epidural catheters are listed by Health Canada as one of the medical equipment that is in short supply, which is something that is worrying medical professionals.

Although patients have not yet been impacted, some regions may experience effects within a few weeks due to supply chain restrictions currently affecting Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia.

If provinces run out of the supplies required to provide epidurals, doctors are worried about the effect this may have on pregnant women. Epidurals help with high-risk births as well as pain management.

Dr. Lucie Filteau told CTV News that the effects on laboring mothers would be significant.

Filteau serves as the Canadian Anesthesiologist Society’s vice president. According to her, an epidural is used in between 50% and 60% of labors in general. A lack of epidurals would restrict alternatives for patients outside the maternity unit, who occasionally need them for pain control.

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Furthermore, the shortage issue isn’t getting better, according to Filteau.

“Our colleagues in Australia and the United States are affected by what we believed was a Canadian scarcity affecting [almost] all of the provinces,” she said.

In addition, “supply chain challenges are causing a global shortage of epidural catheters and tubing needed for CADD pumps used for epidural infusions,” according to a statement from Alberta Health Services (AHS) on Tuesday.

A few Ontario Health networks have begun getting ready to pool supplies if necessary.

Due to a shortage of epidural catheter kits across North America, the Saskatchewan Health Authority published a notice last week advising expectant families to discuss their pain management choices with their healthcare providers.

The first child of Jamie Fiddler, a woman from Saskatchewan, was delivered through C-section with an epidural. She admitted to being terrified of giving birth without an epidural last week, especially since she expects to require a C-section once more owing to a medical problem.

She remarked, “I can’t imagine having a C-section without an epidural.”

Alberta presently has “more than two weeks’ worth of supplies, and there is no impending impact on patients,” per the AHS statement.

However, not everyone is comforted.

Arianna Fierling is getting ready to give birth to her first child and is concerned about the possibility of labor without using an epidural.

She told CTV News, “I think that’s go-to in the back of every woman’s thinking, realizing that an epidural will be available.”

You can’t know until you experience it, so if I can’t deliver normally, I’d get an epidural, in my opinion.

A lack of epidurals is creating worry across Canada.
A lack of epidurals is creating worry across Canada. Image from West Observer

An anesthetic is injected into a precise location inside the tissue layers surrounding the spinal cord during an epidural procedure. The anesthetic effectively forms a cushion around the spine when placed close to the spine because it prevents pain signals from traveling from the spine to the brain.

However, this is impossible without using an epidural catheter, a tiny plastic tube put into the lower back with a needle to allow medical professionals to continue administering painkillers to the spinal region throughout labor.

With an epidural, pain relief happens quickly.

According to Filteau, there are further methods for treating delivery pain, including nitrous gas, opioids, and local anesthetics.

She lamented that none of them provided the same level of pain relief that an epidural did.

And Filing is already having those discussions.

My doctor has done a fantastic job telling me that they will be there every step of the way and that I will have some options in either case. So, we’ve talked about a few options.

According to Health Canada, if the scarcity does spread to a national level, they will intervene to lessen the impact it has on patients, possibly even by securing supplies from outside.

Source: CTV News

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