Methadone for Cancer Pain in Pediatric End-of-Life Care


Methadone for Cancer Pain in Pediatric End-of-Life Care


Hall E A; Sauer H E; Habashy C; Anghelescu D L


The American journal of hospice & palliative care




palliative care; opioid analgesics; cancer pain; pediatric oncology; neuropathic pain; methadone; nociceptive pain


BACKGROUND: The goal of adequate pain control becomes increasingly salient for children with cancer and their families as the patients approach the end of life. Methadone is one option that is particularly desirable in end-of-life care given its long duration of action and NMDA antagonism that may help in controlling pain refractory to conventional opioids. The purpose of this study was to describe a single institution's experience with methadone for the treatment of cancer pain in pediatric end-of-life care. METHOD(S): This retrospective, observational, single-center study included all patients during a 9-year period who died in the inpatient setting and were receiving methadone in their last 30 days of life. RESULT(S): Twenty patients were identified, 18 (90%) of whom received methadone for nociceptive pain. The median duration of methadone use was 32 days (range 2-323 days). Methadone doses ranged from 0.09 to 7.76 mg/kg per day. There were no instances of discontinuing methadone due to an increased QTc interval. No episodes of torsades de pointes were observed. CONCLUSION(S): In patients with pediatric cancer who are nearing the end of life, methadone is a valuable adjunctive therapy to treat nociceptive and neuropathic pain and to prevent opioid-induced hyperalgesia and opioid tolerance. An individualized approach to dosage and route should be considered based on specific clinical circumstances.


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Hall E A; Sauer H E; Habashy C; Anghelescu D L, “Methadone for Cancer Pain in Pediatric End-of-Life Care,” Pediatric Palliative Care Library, accessed October 2, 2023,