Remifentanil in children


  • Section Editor: Dr Neil Morton

Maria Sammartino, Adjunct Professor, Department of Anaesthesia and Intensive Care, Catholic University of Sacred Heart, Viale Cortina d’Ampezzo 237, 00135 Rome, Italy (email:


Remifentanil has gained the confidence of anesthesiologists and has given a real opportunity to change the way anesthesia is given. It can be considered the ideal opioid despite many obstacles to pediatric use: the condition of ‘off-label’, the lack of wide randomized clinical trials, and the fear of adverse events because of its high potency. Experiences in the field with this opioid over the years encouraged its use. Use has been associated with N20 and volatile agents for general anesthesia and with propofol for total intravenous anesthesia (TIVA). It seems very useful for sedation inside and outside the operating room and in intensive care for both short painful procedures and synchronization with mechanical ventilation. However, its unique pharmacokinetic characteristics causing rapid onset and offset of effect appear unchanged in small children and even in premature neonates and need to be really confirmed by further pharmacokinetic studies. Moreover, the real risks of tolerance and hyperalgesia should be evaluated in the pediatric population. In this review, we go through the newer aspects of this versatile drug that has been proposed as ‘the pediatric anesthetist’s opiate’.