Postoperative opioid administration and post-traumatic stress symptoms in preschool children after cardiac surgery

Published:November 01, 2022DOI:


      • Total postoperative opioid administration not associated with PTSS in our sample.
      • Relationships between opioid administration and PTSS vary based on child’s physiology.
      • Morphine administration associated with decreased PTSS in single ventricle patients.



      The purpose of this study was to explore relationships between postoperative opioid administration and posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) in preschool-aged children surviving cardiac surgery.

      Design and methods

      This was a cross-sectional, descriptive study using survey administration and medical chart review. Primary caregivers of children aged three to six years who underwent cardiac surgery at our institution between 2018 and 2020 were invited to participate. Opioid administration was calculated according to morphine milligram equivalents and indexed to the child’s body weight. Caregivers completed the Young Child Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Checklist to explore child PTSS. We used correlational methods to assess the strength and direction of relationships between postoperative opioid administration and child PTSS.


      We did not find a statistically significant relationship between total postoperative opioid administration and child PTSS. When analyzing individual opioid agents, morphine did show a significant inverse relationship to YCPC scores (rs = −.57, p = .017) in children with single ventricle physiology.


      Total postoperative opioid administration was not statistically significantly related to child PTSS in our sample. Differing patterns of association were noted among children with single- versus bi-ventricular physiology. Postoperative morphine administration was favorably associated with PTSS in children with single-ventricle physiology.

      Practice implications

      Nurses caring for preschool children who undergo cardiac surgery should anticipate the potential development of PTSS in their patients. Studies using larger sample sizes and longitudinal design are needed to replicate the significant relationship between morphine administration and PTSS in preschoolers with single-ventricle physiology.


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