Anaesthesia and postoperative analgesia in surgical neonates with or without Down's syndrome: is it really different?

Br J Anaesth. 2012 Feb;108(2):295-301. doi: 10.1093/bja/aer421. Epub 2011 Dec 26.


Background: Reports conflict on optimal postoperative analgesic treatment in children with intellectual disability. We retrospectively compared postoperative analgesics consumption between neonates with and without Down's syndrome in relation to anaesthesia requirements and pain scores.

Methods: We analysed hypnotic and analgesic drug administration, pain scores [COMFORT-Behaviour (COMFORT-B) scale], and duration of mechanical ventilation during the first 48 h after surgical repair of congenital duodenal obstruction in neonates, between 1999 and 2011. Data of 15 children with Down's syndrome were compared with data of 30 children without Down's syndrome.

Results: General anaesthesia requirements did not differ. The median (inter-quartile range) maintenance dose of morphine during the first 24 h after operation was 9.5 (7.8-10.1) µg kg(-1) h(-1) in the Down's syndrome group vs 7.7 (5.0-10.0) µg kg(-1) h(-1) in the control group (P=0.46). Morphine doses at postoperative day 2 and COMFORT-B scores at day 1 did not significantly differ between the two groups. COMFORT-B scores at day two were lower in children with Down's syndrome (P=0.04). The duration of postoperative mechanical ventilation did not statistically differ between the two groups (P=0.89).

Conclusions: In this study, neonates with and without Down's syndrome received adequate postoperative analgesia, as judged from comparable analgesic consumption and pain scores. We recommend prospective studies in children of different age groups with Down's syndrome and in other groups of intellectually disabled children to provide further investigation of the hypothesis that intellectual disability predisposes to different analgesic requirements.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics / administration & dosage*
  • Analgesics, Opioid / administration & dosage
  • Anesthesia, General / methods*
  • Critical Care / methods
  • Down Syndrome / surgery*
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Duodenal Obstruction / congenital
  • Duodenal Obstruction / surgery
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Morphine / administration & dosage
  • Pain Measurement / methods
  • Pain, Postoperative / prevention & control*
  • Postoperative Care / methods
  • Retrospective Studies


  • Analgesics
  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Morphine