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Chronic pain after caesarean delivery: an Australian cohort

Department of Anaesthesia and Pain Management, Nepean Hospital, Penrith, New South Wales, Australia

Summary

We investigated the incidence of and risk factors for persistent pain after caesarean delivery. Over a 12-month period, women having caesarean delivery were recruited prospectively at an Australian tertiary referral centre. Demographic, anaesthetic and surgical data were collected and at 24 hour follow-up, women were assessed for immediate postoperative pain and preoperative expectations of pain. Long-term telephone follow-up was conducted at two and 12 months postoperatively. Complete data were obtained from 426 of 469 women initially recruited (90.6%). The incidence of persistent pain at the abdominal wound at two months was 14.6% (n=62) but subsequently reduced to 4.2% (n=18) at 12 months. At two months, 33 patients (7.8%) experienced constant or daily pain. At 12 months, five patients (1.1%) continued to have constant or daily pain which was mild. There was no apparent increase in incidence of persistent pain associated with general versus regional anaesthesia (relative risk [RR] 0.89, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.49 to 1.6); emergency vs elective procedure (RR 0.65, 95% CI 0.39 to 1.07); higher acute pain scores (RR 1.1, 95% CI 0.69 to 1.75); or history of previous caesarean delivery (RR 0.81, 95% CI 0.50 to 1.33). Persistent pain, usually of a mild nature, is reported by some women two months after their caesarean delivery, but by 12 months less than 1% of women had pain requiring analgesia or affecting mood or sleep. All declined a pain clinic review. Clinicians and patients can be reassured that caesarean delivery is unlikely to lead to severe persistent pain in the long-term.

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