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Patient Controlled Analgesia For Children


What is patient controlled analgesia?

Patient controlled analgesia (PCA) is a way for your child to give himself pain medicine when he feels he needs it. The PCA is a machine programmed to give your child pain medicine slowly through an IV. The PCA pump will not let him get too much medicine. PCA also allows your child to get pain medicine without having repeated injections.

When is PCA used to control pain?

PCA is used to treat short-term pain from surgery or an accident. PCA can also help manage long-term pain from conditions such as cancer. Your caregiver may give your child a PCA to use at home to help control his pain. PCA can be used for children as young as 6 or 7.

How does PCA work?

The PCA is a small, lightweight, battery-operated pump attached to a syringe filled with pain medicine. Caregivers will insert an IV into your child's vein. The PCA pump and syringe will be connected to the IV. There are different ways to get the medicine.

  • Your child may have a PCA pump that will run only when he needs pain relief. When he feels pain, he can push the button attached to the PCA pump. A small dose of pain medicine will be given through his IV.
  • Your child may receive a small amount of pain medicine running through his IV all the time. He may have a button so he can get more medicine when he needs it.

How safe is a PCA?

The PCA pump is built to make sure your child does not get too much pain medicine. The machine has a lockout period that prevents him from getting a dose of medicine too soon. He may push the button many times, but the pump will only give him a set amount of medicine. PCA will be used only for the amount of time necessary to control your child's pain.

Can I press the button for my child?

Your child should press the PCA button when he feels he needs more medicine to reduce his pain. Talk to your caregiver if you feel that you need to press the button for your child. Tell your child's caregiver if your child is still uncomfortable a few minutes after he has pressed the button. Caregivers can tell if your child is in pain by checking his heart rate and breathing. They can also tell if your child gets too much pain medicine.

How can I tell if my child's pain is controlled?

Your child may be restless, fussy, and not able to sleep. A young child may cry and want you to hold him. Some children may behave normally even when they are in pain. Your child may be able to tell you where he hurts and how bad it is. A pain scale with faces may help you find out how much pain your child is in. Do the following to create a pain scale:

  • Draw a smiley face with 2 dots for eyes, a dot for a nose, and a half circle for a smile.
  • Draw 3 more faces with dots for the eyes and nose.
  • In the second picture, change the smile to a straight line.
  • In the third picture, turn the smile upside down so it is a frown.
  • In the fourth picture, keep the frown and add a few tears.
  • Ask your child to point to the picture that looks most like how he feels.

Will pain medicine slow my child's recovery?

Pain medicine is needed and important after an injury or surgery, or during some illnesses. PCA may allow your child to rest comfortably. He may not need as much medicine from a PCA as when he receives injections for pain. A PCA may better control your child's pain and keep him alert and awake. He may be able to start moving around sooner and get better faster.

What are the risks of PCA?

The pain medicine given in the PCA may cause nausea, itchy skin, or trouble urinating. Caregivers will watch your child closely to help prevent and treat these problems.

When should I contact my child's caregiver?

Contact your child's caregiver if:

  • Your child's breathing is slow.
  • Your child is very sleepy most of the time.
  • Your child has frequent vomiting.
  • Your child's skin where the IV is placed is painful, warm, red, swollen or bleeding.
  • You see blood in the tube going to the pump.
  • The pump has no more medicine in it.
  • The pump alarm goes off.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's caregivers to decide what care you want for your child. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.