A shortage of epidural catheters, used in childbirth, is hitting Canada due to supply chain issues, affecting all Canadian suppliers “without exception” and Quebec is preparing for the possible consequences to come.
The Association of Anesthesiologists (AAQ) took stock in a communication to its members, asking them not to panic, but alerted the Federation of Medical Specialists of Quebec as well as the Ministry of Health. Health Canada has also been notified.
A sterilization issue is believed to be involved and affects Canadian suppliers including Teleflex, BBraun, Smith and BD. There is no Canadian manufacturer for this product.
The Association of Anesthetists invites its members to assess their stocks of epidural catheters, plan future orders, and measure their weekly consumption given the uncertain situation.
The Ministry of Health is also carrying out a census in all hospitals in Quebec to find out the level of stocks and future needs.
“We have stocks in some establishments for more than a month. Some establishments have it for less than a month. We are already anticipating that we may have to share the catheters, ”explains in an interview on LCN Dr. Nikola Joly, president of the Association of anesthesiologists of Quebec.
Because of this shortage, the Association of Anesthesiologists invites its members to think about an alternative method to relieve women during childbirth, in particular by anesthesia controlled by the patient of remifentanil, if the catheters were to run out.
Store expired catheters
Anesthesiologists are also asked not to discard expired catheters “but it is not recommended to use them at this time”. Limiting the use of epidural catheters is not recommended.
Dr. Joly is reassuring. "There are other solutions that are on the horizon to avoid having to choose who will have an epidural or not," he says.
The Ministry of Health is in particular in discussion with a supplier in order to find replacement catheters. It must obtain approval from Health Canada before being imported and used.
According to Teleflex, a leading provider of multi-port catheters, supply is expected to return to normal at the end of August 2022, but nothing is confirmed.
“I want to reassure pregnant women, we are not to restrict the use of catheters. We are on the lookout for problems. We will be able to get through without making any sacrifices,” says Dr. Joly.