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Childs Nerv Syst. 2010 Nov;26(11):1535-41. doi: 10.1007/s00381-010-1123-0. Epub 2010 Mar 20.

Safety and efficacy of continuous morphine infusions following pediatric cranial surgery in a surgical ward setting.

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Division of Neurosurgery, Department of Surgery, University of British Columbia and Vancouver General Hospital, Vancouver, BC, Canada.



Morphine is avoided by many neurosurgeons following cranial surgery. There exists a concern regarding the potential complications and a perception that cranial surgery is less painful than other surgical procedures. At British Columbia Children's Hospital continuous morphine infusions (CMI) have been used to control pain in pediatric neurosurgical patients. The purpose of this study was to compare the safety and efficacy of continuous intravenous morphine infusion to standard oral analgesics in a neurosurgical ward setting.


A retrospective review of medical records for 71 children was completed. The patients underwent either cranial reconstruction (2002-2007) or craniotomies for intradural pathology (2005-2007) at British Columbia Children's Hospital. Outcome measures included pain control and adverse events. Comparison was made between patients receiving a CMI and patients receiving acetaminophen and codeine.


Thirty-seven children received CMI on the ward (30 cranial reconstruction and 7 craniotomy), while 34 (10 cranial reconstruction and 24 craniotomy) received acetaminophen and codeine. There was no statistical difference in pain control. There was significantly more nausea on post-operative day one in the CMI group (pā€‰=ā€‰0.002). There were no other significant adverse events.


These findings suggest that CMI is comparable to acetaminophen and codeine with respect to analgesia and serious side effects. We recommend the use of CMIs as an alternative when pain is poorly controlled in post-operative pediatric neurosurgical patients to prevent the potential adverse consequences of inadequate analgesia.

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