Neuraxial opioid-induced pruritus: An update

J Anaesthesiol Clin Pharmacol. 2013 Jul;29(3):303-7. doi: 10.4103/0970-9185.117045.


Pruritus is a troublesome side-effect of neuraxial (epidural and intrathecal) opioids. Sometimes it may be more unpleasant than pain itself. The prevention and treatment still remains a challenge. A variety of medications with different mechanisms of action have been used for the prevention and treatment of opioid-induced pruritus, with mixed results. The aim of this article is to review the current body of literature and summarize the current understanding of the mechanisms and the pharmacological therapies available to manage opioid-induced pruritus. The literature source of this review was obtained via PubMed, Medline and Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews until 2012. The search results were limited to the randomized controlled trials, systemic reviews and non-systemic reviews.

Keywords: Complications; epidural; itching; neuraxial opioids; post-operative; pruritus; spinal.

Publication types

  • Review