Intrathecal Opioid Dosing During Spinal Anesthesia for Cesarean Section: An Integrative Review

J Dr Nurs Pract. 2020 Jul 1;13(2):108-119. doi: 10.1891/JDNP-D-19-00025. Epub 2020 Apr 21.


Approximately one in three women in the United States deliver via Cesarean section (CS), making it one of the most common surgical procedures in the country. Neuraxial (spinal or epidural) anesthesia is the most effective and common anesthetic approach for pain relief during a CS in the United States and often associated with adverse effects such as nausea, vomiting, and pruritus. While recommended dose ranges exist to protect patient safety, there are a lack of guidelines for opioid doses that both optimize postoperative pain management and minimize side effects. This integrative review synthesizes the evidence regarding best practice of opioid dosing in neuraxial anesthesia for planned CS. Evidence supports the use of lower doses of intrathecal (IT) opioids, specifically 0.1 morphine, to achieve optimal pain management with minimal nausea, vomiting, and pruritus. Lower IT doses have potential to achieve pain management and to alleviate preventable side effects in women delivering via CS.

Keywords: Cesarean section; Nausea/vomiting; Pruritus/itching; Spinal; intrathecal opioids.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analgesics, Opioid / administration & dosage*
  • Analgesics, Opioid / standards*
  • Anesthesia, Spinal / methods
  • Anesthesia, Spinal / standards*
  • Cesarean Section / methods
  • Cesarean Section / standards*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Pain Management / methods
  • Pain Management / standards*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic*
  • Pregnancy
  • United States


  • Analgesics, Opioid