The association of intraoperative opioid dose with postanesthesia care unit outcomes in children: a retrospective study

Michael R. King*, Elizabeth De Souza, Thomas A. Anderson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: In children, the relationship between the dose of intraoperative opioid and postoperative outcomes is unclear. We examined the relationship between intraoperative opioid dose and postanesthesia care unit (PACU) pain scores and opioid and antiemetic administrations. Methods: We performed a single-institution retrospective cohort study. Patients who were aged < 19 yr, had an American Society of Anesthesiologists Physical Status of I–III, were undergoing one of 11 procedures under general anesthesia and without regional anesthesia, and who were admitted to the PACU were included. Patients were analyzed by quartiles of total intraoperative opioid dose using multivariable regression, adjusting for confounders including procedure. An exploratory analysis of opioid-free anesthetics was also performed. Results: Three thousand, seven hundred and thirty-three cases were included, and the mean age of included patients was 8.3 yr. After adjustment, there were no significant differences between the lowest and higher quartiles for first conscious pain score, mean pain score, PACU opioid dose, or PACU length of stay; in addition, estimated differences were small. Patients in higher quartiles were estimated to be more likely to receive antiemetics, significantly so for those in the second quartile. Patients in the lowest quartile received significantly more intraoperative nonopioid analgesics. In the exploratory analysis, no significant difference in PACU pain scores was found in cases without intraoperative opioids. Conclusions: Children who received lower doses of intraoperative opioids did not have worse PACU pain outcomes but required fewer antiemetics and received greater numbers of nonopioid analgesics intraoperatively. These findings suggest that lower doses of intraoperative opioids may be administered to children as long as other analgesics are used.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)77-86
Number of pages10
JournalCanadian Journal of Anesthesia
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2024


  • anesthesia adjuvants
  • general anesthesia
  • opioid analgesics
  • postoperative pain

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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