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Clin J Pain. 2010 Feb;26(2):95-103. doi: 10.1097/AJP.0b013e3181b85f98.

A randomized clinical trial of the efficacy of scheduled dosing of acetaminophen and hydrocodone for the management of postoperative pain in children after tonsillectomy.

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Children's Hospital Central California, Madera, CA 93636-8761, USA.



To determine the effectiveness of around-the-clock (ATC) analgesic administration, with or without nurse coaching, compared with standard care with as needed (PRN) dosing in children undergoing outpatient tonsillectomy.


Children 6 to 15 years of age were randomized to receive acetaminophen and hydrocodone (167 mg/2.5 mg/5 mL) for 3 days after surgery: Group A (N=39)-every 4 hours PRN, with standard postoperative instructions; Group B (N=34)-every 4 hours ATC, with standard postoperative instructions, without nurse coaching; and Group C (N=40)-every 4 hours ATC, with standard postoperative instructions, with coaching. Parents completed a medication log, and recorded the presence and severity of opioid-related adverse effects and children's reports of pain intensity using a 0 to 10 numeric rating scale.


No differences were found in analgesic administration or pain intensity scores between the 2 ATC groups. Therefore, they were combined for comparison with the PRN group. Children in the ATC group received more analgesic than those in the PRN group (P<0.0001). Children in the PRN group had higher pain intensity scores compared to children in the ATC group, both at rest (P=0.017) and with swallowing (P=0.017). Pain intensity scores for both groups were higher in the morning compared with the evening (P<0.0001). With the exception of constipation, scheduled analgesic dosing did not increase the frequency or severity of opioid-related adverse effects.


Scheduled dosing of acetaminophen and hydrocodone is more effective than PRN dosing in reducing pain intensity in children after tonsillectomy. Nurse coaching does not impact parent's adherence to ATC dosing.

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