Emergence behaviour in children: Defining the incidence of excitement and agitation following anaesthesia

Jennifer W. Cole, David J. Murray, John D. McAllister, Gary E. Hirshberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

195 Scopus citations


Background: Children display a variety of behaviour during anaesthetic recovery. The purpose of this study was to study the frequency and duration of emergence behaviour in children following anaesthesia and the factors that alter the incidence of various emergence behaviour following anaesthesia. Methods: A prospective study of children who required outpatient lower abdominal surgery was designed to determine an incidence and duration of emergence agitation. We developed a 5-point scoring scale to study the postanaesthetic behaviour in these children. The scale included behaviour from asleep (score = 1) to disorientation and severe restlessness (score = 5). Children were scored by a blinded observer every 10 min during the first hour of recovery or until discharge from same day surgery. Results: We found 27 of 260 children experienced a period of severe restlessness and disorientation (score 5) during anaesthesia emergence. Thirty percent of the children (79/260) experienced a period of inconsolable crying or severe restlessness (score 4 or 5) following anaesthesia. The frequency of this behaviour was greatest on arrival in the recovery room, but many children who arrived asleep in the recovery room later experienced a period of agitation or inconsolable crying. Conclusions: Repeated assessments of behaviour following anaesthetic recovery are required to define an incidence and duration of emergence agitation. Emergence agitation occurs most frequently in the initial 10 min of recovery, but many children who arrive asleep experience agitation later during recovery.

Original languageBritish English
Pages (from-to)442-447
Number of pages6
JournalPaediatric Anaesthesia
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2002


  • Age: paediatrics
  • Complications: emergence delirium
  • Premedication: midazolam
  • Surgery: outpatient


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