Interventions for postoperative pain in children: An overview of systematic reviews

Paediatr Anaesth. 2017 Sep;27(9):893-904. doi: 10.1111/pan.13203. Epub 2017 Jul 14.


The aim of this study was to conduct an overview of systematic reviews that summarizes the results about efficacy and safety from randomized controlled trials involving the various strategies used for postoperative pain management in children. We searched the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, CINAHL, Database of Reviews of Effect, Embase, MEDLINE, and PsycINFO from the earliest date to January 24, 2016. This overview included 45 systematic reviews that evaluated interventions for postoperative pain in children. Out of 45 systematic reviews that investigated various interventions for postoperative pain in children, 19 systematic reviews (42%) presented conclusive evidence of efficacy. Positive conclusive evidence was reported in 18 systematic reviews (40%) for the efficacy of diclofenac, ketamine, caudal analgesia, dexmedetomidine, music therapy, corticosteroid, epidural analgesia, paracetamol, and/or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and transversus abdominis plane block. Only one systematic review reported conclusive evidence of equal efficacy that involved a comparison of dexmedetomidine vs morphine and fentanyl. Safety of interventions was reported as conclusive in 14 systematic reviews (31%), with positive conclusive evidence for dexmedetomidine, corticosteroid, epidural analgesia, transversus abdominis plane block, and clonidine. Seven systematic reviews reported equal conclusive safety for epidural infusion, diclofenac intravenous vs ketamine added to opioid analgesia, bupivacaine, ketamine, paracetamol, and dexmedetomidine vs intravenous infusions of various opioid analgesics, oral suspension and suppository of diclofenac, only opioid, normal saline, no treatment, placebo, and midazolam. Negative conclusive statement for safety was reported in one systematic review for caudal analgesia vs noncaudal regional analgesia. More than half of systematic reviews included in this overview were rated as having medium methodological quality. Of 45 included systematic reviews, 10 were Cochrane reviews and they had higher methodological quality than non-Cochrane reviews. As evidence concerning efficacy and safety is inconclusive for most of the analyzed interventions, our review points out the need for more rigorous trials concerning pain management in children.

Keywords: analgesia; child; methods; pain management; postoperative pain; review.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Humans
  • Pain, Postoperative / therapy*
  • Pediatrics / methods*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Review Literature as Topic