One of the responsibilities of a Post Anesthesia Recovery Room (PACU) Nurse is to help get your child’s pain under control. When a child is experiencing pain it is likely we will give them a pain medication. If the pain is determined to be severe, one of the medications we give might includes a narcotic. I have had parents refuse this.
Narcotics are given to a pediatric patient when they have moderate to severe pain. Generally speaking, if a child is able to verbalize that they are in pain, it is important to believe them. Their vital signs (blood pressure and heart rate) will be elevated, which backs up their report of pain. When a child cannot verbalize they are having pain, nonverbal cues such as crying, agitation, and restlessness may indicate pain.
Some parents fear their child will become addicted right away due to the small doses of opioids given in the recovery room. This is false. Rest assured, when your child is experiencing pain, the job of a narcotic is to decrease the pain. It does so by interfering with the pain message from the body to the brain, With decreased pain, your child’s recovery and healing time will be improved.
To sum up, Opioids should be prescribed only when necessary, in the lowest effective dose, and for the shortest duration necessary. If they are administered in the recovery room for their intended purpose, pain reduction, for a limited time, during the acute post-operative pain phase, dependence or addiction should not become a factor.
For some current research on the use of opioids in pediatric population and some general information about the current opioid crisis and what some states are doing about it, check out the links below or send the 2RNs your questions. If we don’t know the answers we can help you find them.
Persistent Opioid Use Among Pediatric Patients After SurgeryPediatrics
January 2018, VOLUME 141 / ISSUE 1
Michigan Open – Opioid Prescribing Engagement NetworkOur Workhttp://michigan-open.org/our-work/
And – as always, if you know someone who is having surgery or is looking for resources to prepare for medical encounters, please share “Surgery Day” and send them our way.