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General anaesthesia or conscious sedation for painful procedures in childhood cancer: the family‘s perspective
  1. C Crock1,
  2. C Olsson2,
  3. R Phillips3,
  4. G Chalkiadis4,
  5. S Sawyer3,
  6. D Ashley5,
  7. S Camilleri5,
  8. J Carlin3,
  9. P Monagle1
  1. 1Department of Laboratory Haematology, Royal Children‘s Hospital, Melbourne, Australia
  2. 2Murdoch Children‘s Research Institute, Royal Children‘s Hospital
  3. 3Department of Paediatrics, University of Melbourne, Parkville, Australia
  4. 4Department of Anaesthetics, Royal Children‘s Hospital
  5. 5Department of Haematology, Royal Children‘s Hospital
  1. Correspondence to:
    Dr C Crock, Department of Laboratory Haematology, Royal Children‘s Hospital, Parkville, 3052, Australia;


Background: Until recently, midazolam sedation was routinely used in our institution for bone marrow aspirates and lumbar punctures in children with cancer. It has been perceived by many doctors and nurses as being well tolerated by children and their families.

Aim: To compare the efficacy of inhalational general anaesthesia and midazolam sedation for these procedures.

Methods: A total of 96 children with neoplastic disorders, who received either inhalational general anaesthesia with sevoflurane, nitrous oxide, and oxygen (GA) or sedation with oral or nasal midazolam (SED) as part of their routine preparation for procedures were studied. The experiences of these childen were examined during their current procedure and during their first ever procedure. Main outcome measures were the degree of physical restraint used on the child, and the levels of distress and pain experienced by the child during the current procedure and during the first procedure. The family‘s preference for future procedures was also determined.

Results: During 102 procedures under GA, restraint was needed on four occasions (4%) when the anaesthetic mask was first applied, minimal pain was reported, and children were reported as distressed about 25% of the time. During 80 SED procedures, restraint was required in 94%, firm restraint was required in 66%, the child could not be restrained in 14%, median pain score was 6 (scale 0 (no pain) to 6 (maximum pain)), and 90% of the parents reported distress in their child. Ninety per cent of families wanted GA for future procedures. Many families reported dissatisfaction with the sedation regime and raised concerns about the restraint used on their child.

Conclusions: This general anaesthetic regime minimised the need for restraint and was associated with low levels of pain and distress. The sedation regime, by contrast, was much less effective. There was a significant disparity between the perceptions of health professionals and those of families with respect to how children coped with painful procedures.

  • leukaemia
  • painful procedure
  • restraint
  • general anaesthesia
  • sedation
  • GA, general anaesthesia
  • SED, sedation

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