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Drugs and Lactation Database (LactMed®) [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): National Institute of Child Health and Human Development; 2006-.

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Drugs and Lactation Database (LactMed®) [Internet].

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Last Revision: December 21, 2020.

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

CASRN: 132875-61-7

image 135049469 in the ncbi pubchem database

Drug Levels and Effects

Summary of Use during Lactation

Because the half-life of remifentanil is extremely short, it is unlikely to cause any adverse effects in the breastfed newborn if it is given to the mother for labor analgesia or a surgical procedure. Newborn infants seem to be particularly sensitive to the effects of even small dosages of narcotic analgesics. Once the mother's milk comes in, it is best to provide pain control with a nonnarcotic analgesic and limit maternal intake of remifentanil to a few days. However, because no information is available on the use of remifentanil during breastfeeding, an alternate drug may be preferred if the mother requires prolonged administration of remifentanil during the early postpartum period. If the baby shows signs of increased sleepiness (more than usual), difficulty breastfeeding, breathing difficulties, or limpness, a physician should be contacted immediately.

Drug Levels

Remifentanil is administered intravenously and has a half-life of about 3 minutes in adults. Its oral bioavailability is unknown.

Maternal Levels. Relevant published information was not found as of the revision date.

Infant Levels. Relevant published information was not found as of the revision date.

Effects in Breastfed Infants

Four mothers who were breastfeeding their infants received remifentanil as part of their general anesthesia for surgical procedures. All patients also received intravenous propofol and rocuronium, and inhaled xenon as part of the anesthesia. They were given doses of remifentanil that targeted a serum concentration of 4.5 mcg/L during the procedure and reduced to achieve a target concentration of 1.5 mcg/L at the end of anesthesia. Individual infants were first breastfed as follows: 1.5 hours, 2.8 hours, 4.6 hours, and 5 hours after extubation. No signs of sedation were observed in any of the infants.[1]

Effects on Lactation and Breastmilk

Narcotics can increase serum prolactin.[2,3] However, the prolactin level in a mother with established lactation may not affect her ability to breastfeed.

A double-blind, randomized study compared patient-controlled intravenous (IV) analgesia with remifentanil (n = 43) to a continuous meperidine infusion (n = 45) for labor analgesia. Patients receiving remifentanil used an average total dosage of 1035 mcg/kg and those receiving meperidine received an average total dosage of 150 mg/kg. Breastfeeding difficulties were experienced in 6.3% of the infants of mothers who received remifentanil and 12.8% of infants whose mothers received meperidine; however, this difference was not statistically significant.[4]


Stuttmann R, Schafer C, Hilbert P, et al. The breast feeding mother and xenon anaesthesia: Four case reports. Breast feeding and xenon anaesthesia. BMC Anesthesiol. 2010;10:1. [PMC free article: PMC2837001] [PubMed: 20167123]
Tolis G, Dent R, Guyda H. Opiates, prolactin, and the dopamine receptor. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1978;47:200–3. [PubMed: 263291]
Frecska E, Perenyi A, Arato M. Blunted prolactin response to fentanyl in depression. Normalizing effect of partial sleep deprivation. Psychiatry Res. 2003;118:155–64. [PubMed: 12798980]
Evron S, Glezerman M, Sadan O, et al. Remifentanil: a novel systemic analgesic for labor pain. Anesth Analg. 2005;100:233–8. [PubMed: 15616083]

Substance Identification

Substance Name


CAS Registry Number


Drug Class

Breast Feeding


Analgesics, Opioid


Anesthetics, Intravenous


Disclaimer: Information presented in this database is not meant as a substitute for professional judgment. You should consult your healthcare provider for breastfeeding advice related to your particular situation. The U.S. government does not warrant or assume any liability or responsibility for the accuracy or completeness of the information on this Site.

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Attribution Statement: LactMed is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Bookshelf ID: NBK501253PMID: 30000312


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