Zero Patient-controlled Analgesia is an Achievable Target for Postoperative Rapid Recovery Management of Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis Patients

Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2021 Nov 1;46(21):1448-1454. doi: 10.1097/BRS.0000000000004062.


Study design: Retrospective review.

Objective: The objective of this study was to report on one institution's use of single bolus micro-dose intrathecal morphine as part of a rapid recovery pathway during posterior spinal fusion (PSF) for adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS) and its comparison to patients whose pain was controlled with patient-controlled analgesia (PCA).

Summary of background data: Narcotic substance addiction has risen across all patient populations, including pediatrics. Narcotics have been historically used in complex spine surgeries as a measure of pain control, predominantly provided as PCA and additional take-home medication.

Methods: AIS patients undergoing PSF from 2015 to 2019 were reviewed. In 2018, we instituted a standardized rapid recovery pathway for scoliosis patients undergoing PSF utilizing micro-dose intrathecal morphine (ITM-RRP). Before this, traditional protocol with PCA was used for postoperative management. Perioperative data, morphine consumption and prescription refill requests were compared.

Results: There were 373 AIS patients total in this study, of which 250 patients were in the PCA group and 123 in the ITM-RRP Group. Preoperative Cobb angles (P = 0.195), as well as levels fused (P = 0.481) and body mass index (P = 0.075) were similar. 69.4% of ITM-RRP patients had a length of stay ≤3 days, significantly >11.6% of PCA patients (P < 0.001). ITM-RRP patients began ambulating significantly earlier with 84.6% patients out of bed by postoperative day 1 versus 8% PCA patients (P < 0.001). Additionally, ITM-RRP patients had significantly lower VAS pain scores with activity and earlier initial bowel movements (P < 0.001).Postoperative emesis was similar (P = 0.11). No patients had pruritus, respiratory depression, or required supplemental oxygenation.

Conclusion: This is the first study to show that a rapid recovery protocol utilizing single micro-dose ITM with oral analgesics have adequate recovery, significantly better postoperative pain control and superior perioperative outcomes to traditional protocols using PCA in the AIS population following PSF.Level of Evidence: 3.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Analgesia, Patient-Controlled*
  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Child
  • Humans
  • Pain Measurement
  • Pain, Postoperative / diagnosis
  • Pain, Postoperative / drug therapy
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Scoliosis* / surgery


  • Analgesics, Opioid