Pediatric patients benefit from patient-controlled analgesia (PCA), which eliminates the need for painful intramuscular injections of opioids and improves the child’s sense of control. Age is often used inappropriately as a criterion for PCA use in children. Children must be carefully screened for their cognitive and physical ability to manage their pain using PCA. Family-controlled analgesia and nurse-controlled analgesia may be considered in select cases as alternatives to PCA in children with cognitive or physical disabilities. PCA dosage regimens must be individualized on the basis of age. Monitoring parameters must be age appropriate. Potential adverse effects of PCA therapy, including respiratory depression, nausea, vomiting, and pruritus, can be prevented or controlled. Clinicians must become aware of age-related and developmental differences in the pharmacokinetic, pharmacodynamic, and monitoring parameters for the pediatric patient. The safety and efficacy of PCA in pediatric patients has been established, and its role has increased beyond postoperative pain management.
Victoria Tutag Lehr, PharmD, Associate Professor, Department of Pharmacy Practice, The Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI.
Patricia BeVier, MSN, RN, CNS, Pain Management Service, Children’s Hospital of Michigan, Detroit, MI.