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Use of Analgesic, Anesthetic, and Sedative Medications During Pediatric Hospitalizations in the United States 2008

Lasky, Tamar PhD*; Ernst, Frank R. PharmD, MS; Greenspan, Jay MD, MBA‡§

doi: 10.1213/ANE.0b013e31825b6fb2
Pediatric Anesthesiology

BACKGROUND: The wide need for analgesia, anesthesia, and sedation in children and the lack of pediatric labeling leads to widespread off-label use of medications for pain and sedation in children. Any attempt to address the lack of labeling will require national estimates of the numbers of children using each medication, their ages, and other factors, to understand the overall use of these medications. We describe use of analgesics, anesthetics, and sedatives in pediatric inpatients by result of conducting a statistical analysis of medication data from >800,000 pediatric hospitalizations in the United States. The purpose was to provide national estimates for the percentage of hospitalized children receiving specific analgesics, anesthetics, and sedatives and their use by age group.

METHODS: Data from the Premier Database, the largest hospital-based, service-level comparative database in the country, were used. We identified all uses of a given medication, selected the first use for each child, and calculated the prevalence of use of specific medications among hospitalized children in 2008 as the number of hospitalizations in which the drug was used per 100 hospitalizations. Dose and number of doses were not considered in these analyses.

RESULTS: The dataset contained records for 877,201 hospitalizations of children younger than 18 years of age at the time of admission. Thirty-three medications and an additional 11 combinations were administered in this population, including nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs, local and regional anesthetics, opioids, benzodiazepines, sedative-hypnotics, barbiturates, and others. The 10 most frequently administered analgesic, anesthetic, or sedative medications used in this population were acetaminophen (14.7%), lidocaine (11.0%), fentanyl (6.6%), ibuprofen (6.3%), morphine (6.2%), midazolam (4.5%), propofol (4.1%), lidocaine/prilocaine (2.5%), hydrocodone/acetaminophen (2.1%), and acetaminophen/codeine (2.0%). Use changed with age, and the direction of change (increases and decreases) and the type of change (linear, u-shaped, or other) appeared to be specific to each drug.

CONCLUSIONS: A variety of drug classes and individual medications were used to manage pain and sedation in hospitalized children. The variation in patterns of use reflects the heterogeneity of the dataset, comprising a wide range of ages and conditions in which analgesia, anesthesia, and sedation might be required. It was not possible to assess whether use of a specific medication was clinically appropriate, except to note use of medications in age subgroups without pediatric labeling.

Published ahead of print May 10, 2012 Supplemental Digital Content is available in the text.

From *MIE Resources, Kingston, Rhode Island; Clinical and Outcomes Research, Premier Research Services, Charlotte, North Carolina; Department of Pediatrics, Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and §Department of Pediatrics, Nemours Children’s Clinics, Wilmington, Delaware.

Accepted for publication April 6, 2012.

Published ahead of print May 10, 2012

Supported by AHRQ grant R03 HS017998 “Measuring Pediatric Inpatient Use,” Tamar Lasky, Principal Investigator.

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Reprints will not be available from the authors.

Address correspondence to Tamar Lasky, PhD, MIE Resources, PO Box 532, Kingston, RI 02892. Address e-mail to

© 2012 International Anesthesia Research Society