Anesthetic exposure duration has come under scrutiny because of a Food and Drug Administration warning against prolonged use of anesthesia in children, defined as exposures longer than 3 hours.


Data for 2,613,344 pediatric anesthetic records from the American Society of Anesthesiologist’s National Anesthesia Clinical Outcomes Registry from 2010 to 2015 were analyzed to describe anesthetic duration and the prevalence of prolonged exposures in children. Common pediatric inpatient procedures were independently assessed to determine factors associated with exposure duration.


The overall mean pediatric anesthetic duration was 83.3±107.4 minutes (median, 57 min). Prolonged exposures comprised 7% of pediatric anesthetic records, and 15% of anesthetic records in infants. After restricting to common pediatric inpatient procedures (n=96,603) and adjusting for procedure type using a Poisson model, compared with children 10 years or older, exposures in infants were 20.5% longer (anesthetic duration ratio [ADR], 1.205; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.202–1.208). Longer exposures were also seen with a variety of other patient and hospital factors including ASA 4 patients versus ASA 1 patients, (ADR, 1.381; 95% CI, 1.376-1.386), and university hospitals versus surgery centers (ADR, 1.241; 95% CI, 1.236-1.246).


Most pediatric anesthetic exposures last <1 hour with a small percentage lasting over 3 hours. Anesthetic duration for inpatient pediatric procedures, however, is associated with specific patient and hospital characteristics. These results may help identify children potentially at risk for prolonged anesthetic exposure and inform procedure time prediction and operating room scheduling.

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