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Within the context of the United States opioid epidemic, some parents often fear the use of opioids to help manage their children's postoperative pain. As a possible consequence, parents often do not dispense optimal analgesic medications to their children after surgery, putting their children at risk of suffering from postsurgical pain. The objective of this research was to assess ethnicity as a predictor of both pain and opioid consumption, and to examine how Hispanic/Latinx and Non-Hispanic White parents alter their child's opioid consumption in response to significant postsurgical pain.


Participants were 254 children undergoing outpatient tonsillectomy and/or adenoidectomy surgery and their parents. Longitudinal multilevel modeling examined changes in both parent-reported pain and hydrocodone/APAP consumption (mg/kg) on days 1 to 7 after surgery.


Parent reports of postoperative pain were higher in Hispanic/Latinx patients compared to their Non-Hispanic White counterparts (β = −0.15; 95% CI: −0.28, −0.01). There was also a significant interaction of ethnicity and pain on opioid consumption (β = 0.07; 95% CI: 0.01, 0.13). The relationship between parent perceived pain and opioid use was stronger for Non-Hispanic White children, suggesting that this group was more likely to consume opioids to help manage clinically significant postsurgical pain.


Hispanic/Latinx children might be at risk for undertreatment of surgical pain. Findings highlight the importance of assessing parent background and cultural beliefs as predictors of at home pain management and the potential effectiveness of tailored interventions that educate parents about monitoring and treating child postoperative pain.


NOTICE: this is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Journal of Psychosomatic Research. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Journal of Psychosomatic Research, volume 138, in 2020.

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