Background: There is little data regarding the use of sedation and anesthesia for neonatal imaging, with practice patterns varying widely across institutions.

Objective: To understand the current utilization of sedation and anesthesia for neonatal imaging, and review the current literature and recommendations.

Materials and methods: One thousand, two hundred twenty-six questionnaire invitations were emailed to North American physician members of the Society for Pediatric Radiology using the Survey Monkey platform. Descriptive statistical analysis of the responses was performed.

Results: The final results represented 59 institutions from 26 U.S. states, the District of Columbia and three Canadian provinces. Discrepant responses from institutions with multiple respondents (13 out of 59 institutions) were prevalent in multiple categories. Of the 80 total respondents, slightly more than half (56%) were associated with children’s hospitals and 44% with the pediatric division of an adult radiology department. Most radiologists (70%) were cognizant of the neonatal sedation policies in their departments. A majority (89%) acknowledged awareness of neurotoxicity concerns in the literature and agreed with the validity of these concerns. In neonates undergoing magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), 46% of respondents reported attempting feed and bundle in all patients and an additional 46% attempt on a case-by-case basis, with most (35%) using a single swaddling attempt before sedation. Sedation was most often used for neonatal interventional procedures (93%) followed by MR (85%), nuclear medicine (48%) and computed tomography (31%). More than half of respondents (63%) reported an average success rate of greater than 50% when using neonatal sedation for MR.

Conclusion: Current practice patterns, policies and understanding of the use of sedation and anesthesia for neonatal imaging vary widely across institutions in North America, and even among radiologists from the same institution. Our survey highlights the need for improved awareness, education, and standardization at both the institutional level and the societal level. Awareness of the potential for anesthetic neurotoxicity and success of non-pharmacologic approaches to neonatal imaging is crucial, along with education of health care personnel, systematic approaches to quality control and improvement, and integration of evidence-based protocols into clinical practice.

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Misun Hwang et al.
Pediatric Radiology June 2022