A comparison of acute pain management strategies after cesarean delivery

Devin A. Macias, Emily H. Adhikari, Michelle Renee McCown, David B. Nelson, Don D. McIntire, Elaine L. Duryea

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Background: There are approximately 1.2 million cesarean deliveries performed each year in the United States alone. While traditional postoperative pain management strategies previously relied heavily on opioids, practitioners are now moving toward opioid-sparing protocols using multiple classes of nonnarcotic analgesics. Multimodal pain management systems have been adopted by other surgical specialties including gynecology, although the data regarding their use for postoperative cesarean delivery pain management remain limited. Objective: To determine if a multimodal pain management regimen after cesarean delivery reduces the required number of morphine milligram equivalents (a unit of measurement for opioids) compared with traditional morphine patient-controlled analgesia while adequately controlling postoperative pain. Study Design: This was a prospective cohort study of postoperative pain management for women undergoing cesarean delivery at a large county hospital. It was conducted during a transition from a traditional morphine patient-controlled analgesia regimen to a multimodal regimen that included scheduled nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and acetaminophen, with opioids used as needed. The data were collected for a 6-week period before and after the transition. The primary outcome was postoperative opioid use defined as morphine milligram equivalents in the first 48 hours. The secondary outcomes included serial pain scores, time to discharge, and exclusive breastfeeding rates. Women who required general anesthesia or had a history of substance abuse disorder were excluded. The statistical analyses included the Student t test, Wilcoxon rank-sum, and Hodges–Lehman shift, with a P value <.05 being considered significant. Results: During the study period, 877 women underwent cesarean delivery and 778 met the inclusion criteria—378 received the traditional morphine patient-controlled analgesia and 400 received the multimodal regimen. The implementation of a multimodal regimen resulted in a significant reduction in the morphine milligram equivalent use in the first 48 hours (28 [14–41] morphine milligram equivalents vs 128 [86–174] morphine milligram equivalents; P<.001). Compared with the traditional group, more women in the multimodal group reported a pain score ≤4 by 48 hours (88% vs 77%; P<.001). There was no difference in the time to discharge (P=.32). Of the women who exclusively planned to breastfeed, fewer used formula before discharge in the multimodal group than in the traditional group (9% vs 12%; P<.001). Conclusion: Transition to a multimodal pain management regimen for women undergoing cesarean delivery resulted in a decrease in opioid use while adequately controlling postoperative pain. A multimodal regimen was associated with early successful exclusive breastfeeding.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)407.e1-407.e7
JournalAmerican journal of obstetrics and gynecology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2022


  • cesarean delivery
  • morphine milligram equivalents
  • multimodal regimen
  • obstetrical anesthesia
  • opioids
  • pain management
  • patient-controlled analgesia
  • postpartum
  • pregnancy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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