Background: Emergence delirium (ED) is of increasing interest since the introduction of short-acting volatiles such as sevoflurane.
Methods: We compared the Pediatric Anesthesia Emergence Delirium (PAED), Watcha and Cravero scales for assessing the presence of ED in 117 of 118 consecutive children <18 years recovering from general anesthesia. The primary measure was the worst score for ED as assessed on each scale and for each patient during their PACU stay. An experienced anesthetist observer also made a subjective assessment of the presence of ED.
Results: A PAED score of ≥10 detected ED in 37 children (32%), while the Watcha detected 30 (26%) and Cravero 41 (35%). Twenty-five patients (21%) fulfilled criteria for ED in all three scales as did all eight patients assessed by the experienced pediatric anesthetist observer. Median PAED scores (interquartile ranges) for patients assessed as having ED or not respectively were for Watcha, 12 (11,14), 7 (4,8); for Cravero, 11 (9,13), 7 (4,8); and for the experienced anesthetist observer, 14.5 (13.5,16.5), 7 (6,10).
Conclusions: All three scales correlated reasonably well with each other but have individual limitations in their potential to assess whether ED is present. In the absence of developing an improved research tool to assess ED, a PAED score >12 appears to provide greater sensitivity and specificity than a PAED score ≥10. However, the Watcha scale is a simpler tool to use in clinical practice and may have a higher overall sensitivity and specificity than the other scales.