Postintubation Sedation Practices Within Multiple Emergency Departments Across a Large Pediatric Health Care Organization


Children requiring rapid or standard sequence intubation are at risk of experiencing paralysis without adequate sedation when the duration of neuromuscular blockade exceeds the duration of sedation provided by the induction agent. The objective of this study was to evaluate the rate of appropriately timed postintubation sedation (PIS; defined as the administration of PIS before the clinical effects of the induction agent have dissipated) in patients requiring intubation across multiple emergency department/urgent care sites within a large pediatric health care organization.


This retrospective cohort study included patients admitted to 1 of 6 affiliated pediatric emergency department or urgent care sites who were intubated with an induction agent and neuromuscular blocker between January 2016 and December 2021. Patients were excluded if they were intubated in the setting of status epilepticus or cardiac arrest. Stepwise logistic regression identified factors associated with appropriately timed PIS.


A total of 283 patients met the inclusion criteria (mean age, 8 ± 7.6 years; 56% male). Two hundred thirty-eight patients (83%) received some form of PIS (105 [37%] received appropriately timed PIS and 133 [47%] received delayed PIS), and 45 patients (16%) received no PIS. The median time to receive PIS following administration of the induction agent was 21 minutes (interquartile range, 11–40 minutes). Patients induced with fentanyl were the least likely to receive PIS, whereas patients induced with etomidate were the most likely. However, because of the short duration of etomidate, most patients induced with etomidate failed to receive PIS in a timely manner.


Delayed PIS is common and may result in periods of ongoing paralysis without adequate sedation. Emergency department providers and pharmacists must recognize the brevity of some induction agents and provide more timely PIS.

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