Is there a role for intravenous acetaminophen in pediatric emergency departments?

Pediatr Emerg Care. 2011 Jun;27(6):496-9. doi: 10.1097/PEC.0b013e31821d8629.


Background: As a nonopioid parenteral analgesic intravenous (IV) acetaminophen is potentially attractive for emergency department (ED) use. However, there is little experience with its use in the pediatric ED setting. We introduced the agent into a pediatric ED with a preliminary restrictive prescribing regimen and describe its use.

Methods: This is a retrospective record review of all patients who had received IV acetaminophen over 12 months. Prescribing indications were for analgesia only (not for fever management) in patients at risk of opioid-related adverse events. We assessed the demographics, dosing, presenting complaints, discharge diagnoses, and indications for IV acetaminophen use.

Results: Thirty-one patients received IV acetaminophen (mean age, 10 years). All patients were at least moderately sick according to their triage assessment. The median dose was 15 mg/kg with a median of 1 dose administered. Presenting complaints were mainly trauma, abdominal complaints, and sepsis/fever/neutropenia. Thirty-nine percent of patients had severe underlying conditions. Two patients died: 1 patient had a chronic neurological condition, and the other was undergoing palliative treatment for cancer. Physicians complied with prescribing indications for half the patients: 53% were at risk of opioid-related adverse events. Physicians prescribed outside the initial indications as part of multimodal analgesia (13%), for complex patients with fever and pain (7%), and for fever only in patients unable to tolerate enteral administration (27%).

Conclusions: In the setting of an initial restrictive prescribing regimen, IV acetaminophen was used in a small number of pediatric ED patients. In addition to use in patients at risk of opioid adverse events, the medication was also used in complex patients who were unable to tolerate an enteral formulation. Emergency department prescribing guidelines have been modified accordingly.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Acetaminophen / administration & dosage*
  • Adolescent
  • Analgesia / statistics & numerical data*
  • Analgesics, Non-Narcotic / administration & dosage*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Injections, Intravenous
  • Intensive Care Units, Pediatric*
  • Male
  • Pain / diagnosis
  • Pain / drug therapy*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Triage
  • Victoria


  • Analgesics, Non-Narcotic
  • Acetaminophen