A Prospective Cohort Study of Emergence Agitation in the Pediatric Postanesthesia Care Unit

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Emergence agitation (EA) is a postanesthetic problem that interferes with a child’s recovery and presents a challenge in terms of assessment and management. In this prospective cohort study, we sought to determine the incidence of EA, evaluate factors associated with and predictive of EA, and describe associated outcomes in healthy children. Children aged 3–7 yr who were undergoing general anesthesia for elective outpatient procedures were included. All perioperative care was documented, and postoperative behaviors in the postanesthesia care unit were recorded. Parents completed the Behavioral Style Questionnaire for 3- to 7-yr-olds. Five-hundred-twenty-one children were studied, of whom 96 (18%) had EA. Agitation lasted up to 45 min in some cases (range, 3–45 min; mean, 14 ± 11 min), required pharmacologic intervention in 52% of children, and was associated with a prolonged postanesthesia care unit stay (117 ± 66 min versus 101 ± 61 min for nonagitated children; P = 0.02). Ten factors were found to be associated with EA, including age, previous surgery, adaptability, ophthalmology and otorhinolaryngology procedures, sevoflurane, isoflurane, sevoflurane/isoflurane, analgesics, and time to awakening. Of these, otorhinolaryngology procedures, time to awakening, and isoflurane were shown to be independent risk factors.IMPLICATIONS: Children may become agitated after general anesthesia. This study describes several factors that may increase the risk for agitation. These data are important in planning anesthesia care for young children.

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