Perioperative and Anesthesia Guidelines for Children with Autism: A Nationwide Survey from Sweden

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Objective:The overall aim of this study was to describe the current set of guidelines for the preparation and care for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in the perioperative setting across Sweden and explore the content of these guidelines in detail.Method:An online questionnaire was distributed to the chairpersons of all anesthesia departments (n = 68) and pediatric departments (n = 38) throughout Sweden. Follow-up phone calls were made to those departments that did not return the questionnaire. The presence of guidelines was analyzed through descriptive statistics. These guidelines and comments on routines used in these departments were analyzed inspired by conventional content analysis.Results:Seven of the 68 anesthesia departments and none of the 38 pediatric departments across Sweden have guidelines for preparing and/or administering care to children with ASD within the perioperative setting. From the guidelines and routines used, 3 categories emerge: “lacking the necessary conditions,” “no extra considerations needed,” and “care with specific consideration for children with ASD.” These 3 categories span a continuum in the care. In the first category, the anesthesia induction could result in the child with ASD being physically restrained. In the last category, the entire encounter with the health care service would be adapted to the specific needs of the child.Conclusion:There is a lack of evidence-based guidelines specifically designed to meet the needs of children with ASD in the preoperative period in Sweden. Further research is needed to understand if children with ASD would benefit from evidence-based guidelines.

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