The use of sedative and analgesic medications is directly linked to patient outcomes. The practice of administering as-needed sedative or analgesic medications deserves further exploration. We hypothesized that important variations exist in the practice of administering as-needed medications in the intensive care unit (ICU). We aimed to determine the influence of time of day on the practice of administering as-needed sedative or analgesic medications to children in the ICU.
Medication administration records of patients admitted to our pediatric cardiovascular ICU during a 4-month period were reviewed to determine the frequency and timing of as-needed medication usage by shift.
A total of 152 ICU admissions (1854 patient days) were reviewed. A significantly greater number of as-needed doses were administered during the night shift (fentanyl, P = .005; lorazepam, P = .03; midazolam, P = .0003; diphenhydramine, P = .0003; and chloral hydrate, P = .0006). These differences remained statistically significant after excluding doses given during the first 6 hours after cardiovascular surgery. Morphine administration was similar between shifts (P = .08).
We identified a pattern of increased administration of as-needed sedative or analgesic medications during nights. Further research is needed to identify the underlying causes of this practice variation.