Use of neostigmine in the management of acute postoperative pain and labour pain: a review

CNS Drugs. 2006;20(10):821-39. doi: 10.2165/00023210-200620100-00004.


Neostigmine is a parasympathomimetic agent that has been recently investigated for use as an adjunct analgesic agent in the perioperative and peripartum period. A number of studies have investigated the intrathecal, epidural, caudal and intra-articular routes of administration of this agent, as well as the addition of neostigmine to local anaesthetics used for brachial plexus block and intravenous regional anaesthesia. While the intrathecal administration of neostigmine produced useful analgesic effects in the postoperative period in some studies, the high incidence of adverse events, mainly nausea and vomiting, limit the clinical usefulness of this route of administration. Several studies investigated the postoperative analgesic effects of epidural neostigmine using a number of different regimens. Overall, this route of administration appeared to improve postoperative analgesia in most studies without increasing the incidence of adverse events, and merits further research. Neuraxial administration of neostigmine appears to be safe in the obstetric population, with no reported adverse effects in the mother or fetus. While intrathecal administration is limited by a high incidence of nausea and vomiting in this patient population, the epidural route appears more promising and requires further investigation. The addition of neostigmine to caudal local anaesthetics was associated with improved postoperative analgesia in a number of studies. A dose of 2 microg/kg proved to be effective in several studies but was associated with an increased incidence of vomiting in some studies. Intra-articular administration of neostigmine 500microg produced a useful analgesic effect in the postoperative period in several studies and was not associated with an increase in the incidence of adverse effects. Studies investigating the efficacy of adding neostigmine to the local anaesthetics used for brachial plexus block and intravenous regional anaesthesia reported conflicting results. Further studies are required to determine the place of the administration of neostigmine by these routes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anesthesia, Conduction
  • Anesthesia, Epidural
  • Anesthesia, General
  • Anesthesia, Intravenous
  • Anesthesia, Spinal
  • Animals
  • Child
  • Cholinesterase Inhibitors / administration & dosage
  • Cholinesterase Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Injections, Intra-Articular
  • Injections, Spinal
  • Labor Pain / drug therapy*
  • Neostigmine / administration & dosage
  • Neostigmine / therapeutic use*
  • Pain, Postoperative / drug therapy*
  • Pregnancy


  • Cholinesterase Inhibitors
  • Neostigmine