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Paediatr Anaesth. 2019 Mar;29(3):226-230. doi: 10.1111/pan.13566.

Behavioral training and mirroring techniques to prepare elective anesthesia in severe autistic spectrum disorder patients: An illustrative case and review.

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Department of anaesthesia, Necker Enfants Malades, Paris, France.
IME Notre Ecole, Paris, France.
Department of paediatric psychiatry, Necker Enfants Malades, Paris, France.


Children with autistic spectrum disorder are more likely to become distressed during induction of anesthesia. Inhalational induction is almost always the preferred route with acceptance of the face mask often presenting a considerable challenge. Tempering measures to facilitate gas induction such as forced premedication and physical restraint are no longer viable options except in extenuating circumstances. Recent research interest has focused on the need for advanced planning in collaboration with the caregiver to tailor an individualized perioperative plan. This plan may include both pharmacological and non-pharmacological interventions. Applied behavior analysis strategies have a well-documented efficacy in this unique population to systematically change an individual's usual behavior. These can be used, as a non-pharmacological strategy, to ensure a smooth perioperative course. We present a successful case of preoperative desensitization of a child with severe autistic spectrum disorder using a mirror demonstration technique associated with positive reinforcement to prepare him for general anesthesia. We discuss the potential application of applied behavior analysis strategies for anesthesia in this unique population. From a practical point of view, early communication with carers is required to establish who may benefit from this behavioral training. Planned individual preparation for general anesthesia must be provided by trained multidisciplinary staff.


anesthesia; children; preoperative preparation; severe autism spectrum disorder

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