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Evaluation of Gabapentin and Clonidine Use in Children Following Spinal Fusion Surgery for Idiopathic Scoliosis

A Retrospective Review

Choudhry, Dinesh K. MD, FRCA*; Brenn, B. Randall MD*; Sacks, Karen APRN*; Shah, Suken MD

Journal of Pediatric Orthopaedics: October 2019 - Volume 39 - Issue 9 - p e687–e693
doi: 10.1097/BPO.0000000000000989

Background: Opioids are the mainstay of therapy for pain relief following posterior spinal fusion (PSF) surgery. Various adjunctive medications are being used to augment analgesia and to reduce opioid-related side effects. At our institution, we have sequentially added 2 adjuncts to a standard morphine patient-controlled analgesia (PCA) regimen. The goal of our study was to evaluate pain control and the benefit of gabapentin and the combination of gabapentin and clonidine, whereas morphine PCA was in use in children following PSF surgery.

Methods: Following Institutional Review Board approval, data were collected retrospectively from the charts of 127 patients who underwent PSF for idiopathic scoliosis. Children were divided into the 3 following groups: group P, morphine PCA only (42 patients), group G, morphine PCA+gabapentin (45 patients), and group C, morphine PCA+gabapentin+clonidine (40 patients).

Results: Addition of gabapentin to our regimen improved the outcome, but the addition of transdermal clonidine and gabapentin together were found to be significantly better in some aspects. Children in group G and C used less morphine on postoperative day 1 following surgery, had more PCA demand-free hours, were able to take orals, were able to ambulate sooner, and had a shorter hospital stay than group P. There were no differences in side effects or sedation between the 3 groups.

Conclusions: In conclusion, additions of postoperative transdermal clonidine and perioperative oral gabapentin together were found to improve functional outcomes following PSF surgery. Group G and C had reduced opioid use and shorter hospital stay than group P. Addition of these adjuncts together was found to be better since group C patients made fewer PCA attempts to obtain morphine over the first 10-hour period postoperatively and were able to ambulate sooner than group G. The PCA pump usage pattern provides useful information about patient comfort and efficacy of adjunctive medications.

Level of Evidence: Level II—retrospective study.

*Department of Anesthesiology

Department of Orthopedics, Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children, Wilmington, DE

S.S. reports the following conflicts: a consultancy with DePuy Synthes Spine, a grant from the Setting Scoliosis Straight Foundation, and royalties from DePuy Synthes Spine. The remaining authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Reprints: Dinesh K. Choudhry, MD, FRCA, Department of Anesthesiology, Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children, 1600 Rockland Road, Wilmington, DE 19803. E-mail:

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