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Decreased Postpartum Use of Oral Pain Medication After a Single Dose of Epidural Morphine
  1. Stephanie R. Goodman, M.D.,
  2. Ana M. Drachenberg, M.D.,
  3. Sally A. Johnson, B.A.,
  4. Maria A. Negron, M.D.,
  5. Susan H. Kim-Lo, M.D. and
  6. Richard M. Smiley, M.D., Ph.D.
  1. From the Department of Anesthesiology, Columbia University, New York, NY
  1. Reprint requests: Richard Smiley, M.D., Ph.D., Department of Anesthesiology, Columbia University, 630 West 168th Street PH-5, New York, NY 10032. E-mail: rms7{at}


Background: Pain after vaginal delivery may result from episiotomy, perineal laceration, or uterine involution. Many women have indwelling epidural catheters in place at delivery. We hypothesized that a small dose of epidural morphine would be an effective strategy for postpartum analgesia.

Methods: Eighty-one healthy parturients receiving epidural analgesia for labor were enrolled. Patients were randomized in double-blind fashion to 1 of 3 groups: all groups received a 4-mL volume of epidural solution consisting of saline (group 1, control), 1 mg (group 2), or 2 mg morphine (group 3) after vaginal delivery. During the first 24 hours postpartum, patients were evaluated for the amount of oral pain medication requested; visual analog scale scores for pain at rest and with movement; satisfaction with postpartum pain treatment; and opioid side effects including nausea, pruritus, urinary retention, and respiratory depression.

Results: Patients who received 2 mg of epidural morphine used an average of 0.7 (0--1, interquartile range) opioid-containing pain pills (acetaminophen with codeine or oxycodone) compared with 1.2 (0-2) in the 1-mg group and 1.9 (0-3) in the control group (P = .07). There was a statistically significant difference in oral drug usage between those who received epidural morphine and those who did not (P < .03). There were no differences in side effects except that at 12 hours postpartum there was an increase in Foley catheterization in the 1-mg morphine group (P = .007).

Conclusions: These results suggest that epidural morphine decreases the need for oral pain medication in the first 24 hours postpartum. No significant dose-dependent side effects were found.

  • Pain
  • Postpartum
  • Morphine
  • Epidural

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  • Presented in part at the Society for Obstetric Anesthesia and Perinatology meeting, San Diego, CA, April 25-28, 2001.