Successful and safe delivery of anesthesia and perioperative care for children with complex special health care needs

J Clin Anesth. 2009 May;21(3):165-72. doi: 10.1016/j.jclinane.2008.06.033.


Study objective: To determine the utilization of anesthesia resources by children with complex special health care needs.

Design: Observational, inception cohort study of medical records.

Setting: Urban, pediatric, tertiary-care hospital.

Measurements: All general anesthetic cases were screened for preexisting complex special health care needs. Medical records were reviewed for demographic, clinical, and outcome data.

Main results: 435 children with complex special health care needs accounted for 479 delivered general anesthetic cases. This figure represented 14% of the total 3,437 cases presenting during the study period. It also represented 22% (49 of 224) of all cancellations. Down syndrome was the most identifiable developmental disorder (n = 43, 9%). Another 143 (30%) cases showed preexisting technology dependence. Scheduled surgical procedures (n = 425, 89%) comprised the majority of cases. Intraoperative and recovery room complications occurred in 6 (1%) and 133 (28%) cases, respectively. Eleven (2.3%) cases required unplanned post-anesthetic hospital ward or pediatric intensive care unit admission. Documentation of health care proxy or resuscitation status was not identified in any child under 18 years, and in only 4 of 33 children older than 18 years.

Conclusions: Children with complex special health care needs represented one out of 7 of all pediatric general anesthetic cases at a tertiary-care, academic center.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anesthesia, General / adverse effects
  • Anesthesia, General / methods*
  • Anesthetics, General / administration & dosage*
  • Anesthetics, General / adverse effects
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Developmental Disabilities / complications
  • Down Syndrome / complications
  • Female
  • Hospitals, Pediatric
  • Hospitals, Urban
  • Humans
  • Intraoperative Complications / etiology
  • Male
  • Perioperative Care / methods*
  • Postoperative Complications / etiology


  • Anesthetics, General