[en] BACKGROUND: Sufentanil 5 microg and clonidine 75 microg produce a similar reduction in minimum local anaesthetic concentration of ropivacaine. The aim of the present study was to compare the side effects of two equianalgesic solutions by combining 0.2% ropivacaine with either sufentanil 5 microg or clonidine 75 microg for labour epidural analgesia. METHODS: In a prospective double-blind study, 60 women at 5 cm cervical dilatation were randomly allocated to receive 0.2% ropivacaine with either sufentanil 5 microg or clonidine 75 microg to initiate labour analgesia. The analgesic efficacy and side effects of the two mixtures were compared. RESULTS: Onset, duration and quality of analgesia and subsequent ropivacaine consumption were similar in the two groups. Hypotension was significantly more frequent and severe with clonidine than with sufentanil (systolic blood pressure <100 mmHg: 17/26 vs. 6/24, P <0.05; systolic blood pressure <90 mmHg: 5/26 vs. 0/24, P <0.05) resulting in more frequent ephedrine administration (11/26 vs. 2/24, P <0.05) and larger fluid requirements (1696 +/- 583 mL vs. 1264 +/- 407 mL, P < 0.05). Conversely, pruritus was more frequent with sufentanil than with clonidine (6/26 vs. 1/24, P <0.05). CONCLUSIONS: Hypotension occurs more frequently when clonidine is added to epidural ropivacaine instead of an equianalgesic dose of sufentanil. Therefore, clonidine cannot be recommended for routine administration for labour epidural analgesia.