Objective: To collect data on pain management in paediatric oncology with respect to the WHO ladder approach. SETTING, DESIGN, PATIENTS AND METHODS: Eight German tertiary care paediatric oncology centres prospectively documented all their in-patient pain treatment courses from June 1999 to December 2000. Pain was scored using a 1-6 faces scale.
Results: Two hundred and twenty four patients (median age, 9 years; range 0.2-32.1) were enrolled. Three hundred and thirty three pain episodes comprising a total of 2265 treatment days were documented. Pain was mostly therapy associated. The most frequently administered non-opioid analgesics were dipyrone and paracetamol. On WHO step 2, tramadol was almost the only opioid used. During tramadol monotherapy average daily pain scores were lower than with a combination of tramadol and non-opioid analgesics. On WHO step 3, morphine was at least part of the analgesic regimen on most treatment days. Strong opioids were combined with a non-opioid analgesic on 41% of the treatment days. The mean intravenous morphine equivalence dose was 0.034 mg/kg/h. During opioid and non-opioid combination therapy, adverse effects were more frequent, and average pain scored higher than on opioid monotherapy.
Conclusions: WHO-guidelines were closely followed in Germany and seem to provide effective analgesia for children with cancer pain. In our patient group there is no evidence that a combination of an opioid with a non-opioid is more effective than opioid therapy alone in in-patient paediatric oncology pain treatment.