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Parent-controlled PCA for Pain Management in Pediatric Oncology: Is it Safe?

Anghelescu, Doralina L. MD; Faughnan, Lane G. BSN; Oakes, Linda L. MSN; Windsor, Kelley B. MSN; Pei, Deqing MS; Burgoyne, Laura L. BM BS

Journal of Pediatric Hematology / Oncology: August 2012 - Volume 34 - Issue 6 - p 416–420
doi: 10.1097/MPH.0b013e3182580496
Original Articles

Patient-controlled analgesia offers safe and effective pain control for children who can self-administer medication. Some children may not be candidates for patient-controlled analgesia (PCA) unless a proxy can administer doses. The safety of proxy-administered PCA has been studied, but the safety of parent-administered PCA in children with cancer has not been reported. In this study, we compare the rate of complications in PCA by parent proxy versus PCA by clinician (nurse) proxy and self-administered PCA. Our pediatric institution’s quality improvement database was reviewed for adverse events associated with PCA from 2004 through 2010. Each PCA day was categorized according to patient or proxy authorization. Data from 6151 PCA observation days were included; 61.3% of these days were standard PCA, 23.5% were parent-proxy PCA, and 15.2% were clinician-proxy PCA days. The mean duration of PCA use was 12.1 days, and the mean patient age was 12.3 years. The mean patient age was lower in the clinician-proxy (9.4 y) and parent-proxy (5.1 y) groups, respectively. The complication rate was lowest in the parent-proxy group (0.62%). We found that proxy administration of PCA by authorized parents is as safe as clinician administered and standard PCA at our pediatric institution.

*St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Memphis, TN

Department of Children’s Anaesthesia, Women’s and Children’s Hospital, University of Adelaide, North Adelaide, SA, Australia

Presented, in part, at the 7th Congress of the European Federation of the International Association for the Study of Pain, Hamburg, Germany, September 2011.

Supported by the National Cancer Institute Cancer Center Support Core Grant 5P30CA-21765-32 and the American Lebanese Syrian Associated Charities (ALSAC), neither of which had a role in its planning, conduct, analysis, nor reporting.

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Reprints: Doralina L. Anghelescu, MD, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, 262 Danny Thomas Pl, Memphis, TN 38105 (e-mail:

Received December 9, 2011

Accepted March 29, 2012

Copyright © 2012 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.