Use of Opioids and Nonopioid Analgesics to Treat Pediatric Postoperative Pain in the Emergency Department

Christine E. Stake*, Renee C.B. Manworren, Yazan K. Rizeq, Sana Minhas, Hehui Quan, Katherine A. Barsness

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Objectives: The incidence, demographic characteristics, and treatment approaches for pediatric patients who present to the ED with a primary complaint of postoperative pain have not been well described. The purpose of this study was to describe opioid and nonopioid prescribing patterns for pediatric patients evaluated for postoperative pain in the Emergency Department (ED). Methods: Pediatric Health Information System is an administrative database of encounter-level data from 48 children's hospitals. Emergency department visits for postoperative pain from January 2014 to September 2017 were analyzed. Visits were matched by the Pediatric Health Information System identifier to associate corresponding same site surgery encounters directly preceding ED visits. Results: There were 7365 ED visits for acute postoperative pain, for which 4044 could be linked to corresponding surgical procedure. Eight-one percent of ED visitswere within 7 days of surgery. Opioidswere given at 1979 (49%) of visits, and nonopioids at 678 (17%) of visits. The most common surgeries preceding a postoperative pain ED visit were for tonsils and adenoids (48.5%). Age, sex, length of stay for both procedure and ED visits, procedure specialty, and the number of days between procedure discharge and admission to ED were associated with opioid administration during ED visits (P < 0.05). Conclusions: Pediatric patients treated in the ED for postoperative pain were often treated with opioid and nonopioid analgesics, with wide prescriber variability. Further research is warranted to help balance optimal pain management and safe prescribing practices.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E234-E239
JournalPediatric emergency care
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2022


  • Analgesic
  • Opioid
  • Postoperative pain

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Emergency Medicine


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