Morphine after childhood surgery may be life threatening

Treating post-operative pain with morphine can cause life threatening respiratory problems in some children who have had their tonsils removed, new research has found.

The study has identified a significant risk of potentially fatal breathing disruption when morphine is administered at home after surgery to treat pain in children who undergo tonsillectomy.

This surgery is commonly and effectively used to treat childhood sleep apnea.

The study also showed ibuprofen is a safe and effective alternative.

“The evidence clearly suggests children with obstructive sleep apnea should not be given morphine for post-operative pain. We already know that they should not get codeine either,” said Gideon Koren, director of the Motherisk Programme at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), McMaster University.

The good news is that “we now have evidence that indicates ibuprofen is safe for these kids and is just as effective in controlling their pain,” he noted.

During the study, 91 children between the ages of 1 and 10 were randomly assigned to receive post-operative painkillers at home following their outpatient tonsillectomy surgery to treat obstructive sleep apnea.

Tonsillectomy is among the most common paediatric surgical procedures. The study was published in the journal PEDIATRICS.

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