Control of severe pain in children with terminal malignancy


Control of severe pain in children with terminal malignancy


Collins J J; Grier HE; Kinney HC; Berde CB


Journal Of Pediatrics




Child; Female; Male; Preschool; Non-U.S. Gov't; infant; retrospective studies; Pain/drug therapy; Infusions; Human; Parenteral; Support; Adolescence; Terminal Care; Neoplasms/physiopathology; Palliative Care/methods; Analgesia/methods; Morphine/administration & dosage/therapeutic use


OBJECTIVE: To identify the characteristics of the subset of children with malignancy in whom massive opioid infusions are needed during the terminal phase. DESIGN: Retrospective review of the records of the 199 patients who died of malignancy after treatment at Children's Hospital, Boston, from March 1989 to July 1993, identifying characteristics of patients who required massive opioid infusions (operationally defined as infusion of > 3 mg/kg per hour of morphine dose equivalent) during the terminal phase. RESULTS: Twelve patients (6%) required massive opioid infusions, and eight of these patients required extraordinary measures (epidural or subarachnoid infusion and/or sedation) to achieve adequate analgesia. The duration of epidural or subarachnoid infusions in three patients ranged from 3 to 9 days, and minimal complications occurred. The duration of sedation ranged from 1 to 15 days. Maximal intravenous opioid dosing ranged from 3.8 to 518 mg/kg per hour of morphine equivalent. The maximal infusion rate (exceeding all previous published reports) occurred in an infant with an isolated metastasis in the periaqueductal gray matter, a brain-stem site linked to mediating analgesia and defense reactions. The need for massive opioid dosing in 11 of 12 patients was associated with tumor spread to the spinal nerve roots, nerve plexus, large peripheral nerve, or spinal cord compression. CONCLUSIONS: Standard dosing of opioids adequately treats most cancer pain in children; however, a significant group requires more extensive management. These problems occur more commonly among patients with solid tumors metastatic to spine and major nerves.


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Collins J J; Grier HE; Kinney HC; Berde CB, “Control of severe pain in children with terminal malignancy,” Pediatric Palliative Care Library, accessed May 21, 2024,