Surgical pleth index: prediction of postoperative pain in children?

Br J Anaesth. 2017 Nov 1;119(5):979-983. doi: 10.1093/bja/aex300.


Background: Surgical Pleth Index (SPI) is a non-invasive, dimensionless score (0-100) aimed to allow an estimate of intraoperative nociception. Thus, it may be a useful tool to guide intraoperative analgesia. However, no optimum SPI target range for the use in children has yet been defined. It was the aim of this study to define a clinically appropriate SPI target to predict moderate-severe postoperative pain in children.

Methods: After ethics approval 105 children (2-16 yr) undergoing elective sevoflurane/opioid-based anaesthesia were included. SPI was recorded directly before the end of surgery and compared with acute postoperative pain (age appropriately assessed on different pain scales in the age groups two to three yr, four to eight yr and nine to16 yr) in the postoperative acute care unit (PACU).

Results: Data of 93 children were analysed. A significant negative correlation was found between age and SPI (r=-0.43; P=0.03). The SPI cut-off value with the highest sensitivity (76%) and specificity (62%) in all children combined was 40. The negative predictive value for SPI ≤ 40 to predict the absence of moderate-severe pain in PACU was 87.5%. The commonly used SPI cut-off (50) published in all related studies had neither any clinically relevant sensitivity nor specificity to predict the presence or absence of acute pain in PACU.

Conclusions: The results suggest that a lower (≤ 40) than previously published (50) target for SPI may be more appropriate in studies investigating SPI guided anaesthesia in children, if the avoidance of moderate-severe postoperative pain is the main goal.

Clinical trial registration: ACTRN12616001139460.

Keywords: children; postoperative pain; surgical pleth index.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Factors
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Monitoring, Intraoperative / methods*
  • Nociception / drug effects*
  • Pain, Postoperative / diagnosis*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Sensitivity and Specificity