Researchers stress that such deaths remain rare. But they also say the results point to an area where anesthesia can be made safer for women.
In the new study, researchers found that between 1979 and 2002, childbirth deaths related to any anesthesia complication dropped by 59% among U.S. women.
Per million live births, there were three anesthesia deaths between 1979 and 1990, vs just over one between 1991 and 2002, the researchers reported online December 20th in Obstetrics & Gynecology.
However, while deaths related to general anesthesia kept falling in the 1990s, deaths related to regional anesthesia rose slightly, from 2.5 deaths for every million C-sections in 1991-1996 to 3.8 per million in 1997- 2002."It is concerning," said lead researcher Dr. Joy L. Hawkins, of the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Aurora.For their study, she and her colleagues used a U.S. government database that collects information on pregnancy-related deaths nationwide. Between 1991 and 2002, the system received 56 reports of anesthesia-related deaths during childbirth.Most of the women who died - 48 of the 56 -- had undergone a C-section. In the rest of the cases, the type of delivery was not reported.