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The feasibility of using dose-banded syringes to improve the safety and availability of patient-controlled opioid analgesic infusions in children
  1. Asia N Rashed1,2,
  2. Cate Whittlesea3,
  3. Ben Forbes1,
  4. Stephen Tomlin1,2
  1. 1Institute of Pharmaceutical Science, King's College London, King's Health Partners, London, UK
  2. 2Pharmacy Department, Evelina London Children's Hospital, Guy's & St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, King's Health Partners, London, UK
  3. 3School of Medicine, Pharmacy and Health, Durham University, Durham, UK
  1. Correspondence to Stephen Tomlin, Pharmacy Department, Evelina London Children's Hospital, Guy's & St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, London SE1 7EH, UK; Stephen.Tomlin{at}

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Opioid analgesia in children

Opioid infusions are essential therapy for children in severe pain. Patient controlled analgesia (PCA) is an attractive treatment option because of the multiple benefits it provides: immediate and effective pain relief, titration of analgesia and empowerment of the patient (or nurse) to have a degree of control over their pain which helps to retain autonomy and decrease anxiety. However, opioid infusions for children carry a high risk of medication error. Risks include the complexity in calculating dosages, the manipulation of small volumes to prepare individual infusions and the necessity to deliver the infusion with precision at low flow rates (down to 0.1 mL/h). During PCA additional boluses on top of the baseline infusion rate add to the pharmaceutical and therapeutic complexity. The severe side effects of opioids, including hypoventilation, hypotension and sedation, exacerbate the risk and raise great concern in hospitals, plus limiting the use of PCA in community and hospice settings.

At present there is no international standard practice or guideline on the way that PCA is administered. This commentary highlights problems with current practices of preparing and administering PCA in hospitalised children in the UK. Additionally, we advocate a system management approach which we are piloting to address the problems of opioid-based PCA for children in a large (200-bed) hospital, the Evelina London Children's Hospital, in the hope of developing safer practices for the delivery of opioid analgesia.

Opioid infusions in paediatric pharmacy

Intravenous infusions are an important means of administering therapy, yet the technical process is complex with multiple error-prone steps. The errors associated with preparing and administering intravenous infusions in paediatrics (eg, low volume at low flow rate) make drug delivery by infusion a particularly high risk,1 but continuous infusions of opioid are crucial to achieve effective analgesia and avoid uncontrolled pain in neonates and children with conditions such as sickle …

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