Perioperative management of the child on long-term opioids

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The strategies used to manage children exposed to long-term opioids are extrapolated from adult literature. Opioid consumption during the perioperative period is more than three times that observed in patients not taking chronic opioids. A sparing use of opioids in the perioperative period results in both poor pain management and withdrawal phenomena. The child's pre-existing opioid requirement should be maintained, and acute pain associated with operative procedures should be managed with additional analgesia. This usually comprises short-acting opioids, regional or local anesthesia, and adjuvant therapies. Long-acting opioids, transdermal opioid patches, and implantable pumps can be used to maintain the regular opioid requirement. Intravenous infusion, nurse controlled analgesia, patient-controlled analgesia, or oral formulations are invaluable for supplemental requirements postoperatively. Effective management requires more than simply increasing opioid dose during this time. Collaboration of the child, family, and all teams involved is necessary. While chronic pain or palliative care teams and other staff experienced with the care of children suffering chronic pain may have helpful input, many pediatric hospitals do not have chronic pain teams, and many patients receiving long-term opioids are not palliative. Acute pain services are appropriate to deal with those on long-term opioids in the perioperative setting and do so successfully in many centers. Staff caring for such children in the perioperative period should be aware of the challenges these children face and be educated before surgery about strategies for postoperative management and discharge planning.

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