Incidence and severity of chronic pain after caesarean section: A systematic review with meta-analysis

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The frequency of caesarean section has increased dramatically in recent decades. Despite this, robust data regarding the consequences of caesarean section in terms of developing chronic postsurgical pain (CPSP) are still lacking.


This systematic review analysed the incidence and severity of CPSP in women 3 to less than 6, 6 to less than 12, and at least 12 months after caesarean section.


Systematic review of prospective and retrospective observational studies and randomised controlled trials with meta-analysis.


We searched MEDLINE to May 2015.


We included all studies investigating the incidence and/or severity of CPSP at least 3 months after caesarean section. The primary outcome was chronic postsurgical wound pain (CPSP ‘wound’). Secondary outcomes were persistent pain in the back area, pelvic region or reported as residual pain, and severity of ‘birth-related’ chronic pain.


Meta-analysis using the random-effects model based on 15 studies (n = 4475) reporting CPSP ‘wound’ at 3 to less than 6 months after caesarean section revealed an incidence of 15.4% [95% confidence interval (CI): 9.9 to 20.9%]. For 6 to less than 12 and at least 12 months after caesarean section, the incidence of CPSP ‘wound’ was estimated at 11.5% (95% CI: 8.1 to 15.0%, n = 3345) and 11.2% (95% CI: 7.4 to 15.0%, n = 3451), respectively. Meta-regression analysis using the publication year as predictor revealed stable CPSP ‘wound’ incidences at each postoperative time slot from 2002 to the present. Of those patients who reported chronic pain, 9.6% (95% CI: 0.0 to 21.0%) had severe pain, 23.5% (95% CI: 10.0 to 37.0%) had moderate pain and 49.2% (95% CI: 18.9 to 79.4%) had mild pain at 6 months.


Major limitations are high statistical heterogeneity of the meta-analyses and inconsistencies in reporting severity of chronic ‘birth-related’ pain.


This meta-analysis finds a clinically relevant incidence of CPSP ‘wound’ after caesarean section ranging from 15% at 3 months to 11% at 12 months or longer that has been largely stable in recent years.

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