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Perioperative Pain Management Practices Vary Across Time and Setting for Pediatric ACL Reconstruction: Trends From a National Database in the United States



Surgical and anesthetic techniques have enabled a shift to the ambulatory setting for the majority of patients with anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears. While this change likely reflects improvements in acute pain management, little is known about national trends in pediatric perioperative pain management after ACL reconstruction (ACLR).


To describe recent trends in the United States in perioperative pain management for pediatric ACLR.

Study design

Cross-sectional study; Level of evidence, 3.


Pediatric patients (age, ≤18 years) who underwent ACLR with peripheral nerve blocks between January 2008 and December 2017 were identified in the Pediatric Health Information System database. We modeled the use of oral and intravenous analgesic medications over time using Bayesian logistic mixed models. Models were adjusted for patient age, sex, race, primary payer, and treatment setting (ambulatory, observation, or inpatient).


The study criteria produced a sample of 18,605 patients. Older children were more likely to receive intravenous acetaminophen, intravenous ketorolac, and oral and intravenous opioids. Younger children were more likely to receive ibuprofen. In our adjusted logistic model, treatment setting was found to be an independent predictor of the utilization of all medications. We found an increase in the overall utilization of oral acetaminophen (adjusted odds ratio [adj OR], 1.14 [95% CI, 1.04-1.23]), intravenous acetaminophen (adj OR, 1.42 [95% CI, 1.22-1.65]), and oral opioids (adj OR, 1.16 [95% CI, 1.06-1.28]) over the study period at a typical hospital. We found significant heterogeneity in medication use across hospitals, with the most heterogeneity in intravenous acetaminophen. Other studied descriptive variables did not appear to predict practices.


After adjusting for patient characteristics and treatment settings, pain management strategies varied among hospitals and over time. Patient age and treatment setting predicted practices. Regional anesthesia, opioid medications, and intravenous ketorolac remained the mainstays of treatment, while intravenous acetaminophen emerged in use over the course of the study period. The variability in the pain management of pediatric patients undergoing ACLR suggests that further study is necessary to establish the most effective means of perioperative pain management in these patients.

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