Parental Psychosocial Factors Moderate Opioid Administration Following Children’s Surgery

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BACKGROUND: This investigation aimed to examine the impact of parental psychosocial variables on the administration of opioids to young children experiencing postoperative pain.

METHODS: Participants in this longitudinal analysis were children ages 2–12 undergoing tonsillectomy with or without adenoidectomy and their parents. Parents completed validated instruments assessing trait anxiety, perceived stress, and coping style before surgery, and children and parents completed instruments assessing pain and administration of opioids and acetaminophen on days 1, 2, 3, and 7 at home after surgery. The structure of the data was such that parents and children completed multiple data assessments making the data multilevel (ie, days of data within dyads). To address this issue of data structure, multilevel modeling was used to analyze the dataset.

RESULTS: Participants included 173 parent-child dyads (mean child age = 5.99 ± 2.51) recruited between 2012 and 2017. We found that parent-related psychosocial variables, such as trait anxiety, stress, and coping style, moderated the relationship between the child’s pain and postoperative medication administration. Specifically, when predicting hydrocodone, the interactions between anxiety and pain and stress and pain were significant; when child pain was high, high-anxiety and high-stressed parents gave their children 19% and 12% more hydrocodone, respectively, compared to low-anxiety and low-stressed parents. When predicting acetaminophen, the interactions between anxiety and pain, a blunting coping style and pain, and a monitoring coping style and pain were significant.

CONCLUSIONS: These results suggest the need to identify parents who experience high levels of perceived stress and trait anxiety and use appropriate interventions to manage stress and anxiety. This may ensure children receive optimal amounts of pain medication following surgery.


This article was originally published in Anesthesia & Analgesia, volume 132, issue 6, in 2021.


International Anesthesia Research Society