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Intensive Crit Care Nurs. 2004 Dec;20(6):344-51.

Opioid and benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms in paediatric intensive care patients.

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Institute of Child Health and Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Trust, Great Ormond Street, Level 7 Old Building, London WC1N 3JH, UK.


The purposes of this prospective repeated measures study were to: (a) describe the occurrence of withdrawal symptoms with the use of a standardised protocol to slowly taper opioids and benzodiazepines; and (b) to test the predictive validity of an opioid and benzodiazepine withdrawal assessment scoring tool in critically ill infants and young children after prolonged opioid and benzodiazepine therapy. Fifteen children (6 weeks-28 months of age) with complex congenital heart disease and/or respiratory failure who received opioids and benzodiazepines for 4 days or greater were evaluated for withdrawal symptoms using a standardized assessment tool. Thirteen children showed moderate to severe withdrawal symptoms a median 3 days after commencement of tapering. Symptom intensity was not related to prior opioid or benzodiazepine exposure, extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) therapy or length of tapering. Children who received fentanyl in addition to morphine more often exhibited signs of withdrawal. This study demonstrated that significant withdrawal symptoms occur in critically ill children even with the use of a standardised assessment tool and tapering management protocol. The predictive validity and utility of the Opioid and Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Score (OBWS) was adequate for clinical use, but areas for further improvement of the tool were identified. Problems with the clinical withdrawal prevention and management guidelines were also identified. More research is needed to establish the optimal methods for prevention and management of iatrogenic opioid and benzodiazepine withdrawal in paediatric critical care.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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