Epidural is an anesthetic that delivers nerve-blocking drugs through a tiny plastic tube into the epidural space. Specialist doctors perform it. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), an epidural is the most common type of pain relief used for childbirth in the U.S.
Recently, there has been a shortage of epidurals in many regions. Hospitals and doctors cannot get epidurals on time as per the orders. “Epidural and spinal kits are facing supply chain issues globally,” says Krishna Shah, M.D., assistant professor of interventional pain medicine in the Department of Anesthesiology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. “In the U.S., we notice extended lead times when ordering epidural supplies.”
One of the leading international manufacturers of epidurals announced temporary trouble in its supply in April. This supply chain issue is occurring due to a lack of blue dye. Manufacturers use this blue dye to color the special low friction plunger-style epidural syringe. This particular syringe is necessary because doctors use it to identify the epidural space in the patient’s back.
Problems faced by people due to epidural shortage
Epidural plays a very vital role during childbirth. It helps in relieving labor and birth pain. This medication is the primary pain management for pregnant women. Eventually, it helps the doctors do the birth process or surgery easily.
According to one of the specialist doctors, Dr. Shah, it is unlikely that the epidural shortage will affect the availability of epidurals at big hospitals. “As epidurals are the primary pain management option for pregnant women during labor, many large hospitals with obstetrics services are fully stocked with epidural kits for several months,” he says. “In addition, with multiple suppliers options, it would be unlikely for an epidural shortage in the U.S.”
Doctors are frustrated but not because of epidural shortage only
Shortage of epidurals is one problem, but what makes the doctors mad is its communication. Doctors are frustrated because there is no proper communication flow among the management. It is needed that the information should flow properly so that all the levels of management are aware of everything, whether it is overstock or short supply.
British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba seem most affected by the shortage; Filteau said, “If the shortage is global, maybe it wouldn’t make a difference. But I do think that on the communication side, on the supply-chain side, and the protocols that exist, there’s room for improvement.”
How do you cope with Global Shortages?
It is predicted that the shortage will end by December 2022. The shortage is worldwide and impacts developing countries such as Canada, the united kingdom(UK), and the united states(USA). Until then, people need to cope with the current global shortage of epidurals. Some drugs can be used in place of epidurals, like nitrous oxide and morphine injections. Some drugs provide person-controlled analgesia or a very low-dose spinal anesthetic to relieve labor pain.
The supply chain issues seem to not resolve soon for various reasons, including pandemics, world wars, and natural disasters. The least we can do is deal with the situation and look for solutions until the supply chain improves.