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Sedation and neuromuscular blockade in paediatric intensive care: a review of current practice in the UK


Stephen D. Playfor, Paediatric Intensive Care Unit, Royal Manchester Children's Hospital, Hospital Road, Pendlebury, Manchester M27 4HA, UK (e-mail:


SummaryBackground: Our aim was to investigate the current practice of sedation and neuromuscular blockade in critically ill children in paediatric intensive care units (PICUs) in the UK.

Methods: A postal questionnaire was sent to all PICUs in the UK.

Results: The most commonly used sedative agents were midazolam in combination with morphine. Written clinical guidelines for the sedation of critically ill children were available in 45% of units. Sedation is formally assessed in 40% of units. Vecuronium is the most commonly used neuromuscular blocking agent. In the UK, 31% of critically ill children are likely to receive neuromuscular blocking agents. Depth of neuromuscular blockade is routinely assessed in 16% of patients.

Conclusions: Relatively few units possess clinical guidelines for the sedation of critically ill children, and only a minority formally assess sedation levels. Where neuromuscular blocking agents are administered, sedation is frequently inadequately assessed and the depth of neuromuscular blockade is rarely estimated.