When deciding on neuraxial medication (e.g., spinal opioids) for cesarean delivery (CS) under regional anesthesia, anesthesiologists make treatment decisions that "trade off" relieving pain with the potential for increased risk of side effects. No previous studies have examined obstetric patients' anesthesia preferences. Researchers administered 100 written surveys to pregnant women attending our institutions' expectant parent class. We determined patients' preferences for importance of specific intraoperative and postoperative anesthesia outcomes using priority ranking and relative value scales. We also explored patients' fears, concerns, and tolerance regarding CS and analgesics. Eighty-two of 100 surveys were returned and analyzed. Pain during and after CS was the greatest concern followed by vomiting, nausea, cramping, pruritus, and shivering. Ranking and relative value scores were closely correlated (R2 = 0.7). Patients would tolerate a visual analog pain score (0-100 mm) of 56 +/- 22 before exposing their baby to the potential effects of analgesics they receive. In contrast to previous general surgical population surveys that found nausea and vomiting as primary concerns, we found pain during and after CS as parturients' most important concern. Common side effects such as pruritus and shivering caused only moderate concern. This information should be used to guide anesthetic choices, e.g., inclusion of spinal opioids given in adequate doses.
Implications: Medical care can be improved by incorporating patients' preferences into medical decision making. We surveyed obstetric patients to determine their preferences regarding potential cesarean delivery anesthesia outcomes. Unlike general surgical patients who rate nausea and vomiting highest, parturients considered pain during and after cesarean delivery the most important concern.