Safety of Rectal Administration of Acetaminophen in Neonates

Lori Chen, Monica Zhang, Jason Yung, Jennifer Chen, Carol McNair, Kyong-Soon Lee
Canadian Journal of Hospital Pharmacy 2018, 71 (6): 364-369

Background: On the basis of pharmacokinetic modelling, high-dose acetaminophen by rectal administration has been recommended for neonates needing antipyretic or analgesic therapy, but the safety and efficacy of this approach have not been established in vivo.

Objectives: The primary objective was to assess the safety of rectal acetaminophen administration for neonates, as indicated by changes in the results of hepatic and renal function tests. The secondary objective was to assess the efficacy of rectal acetaminophen administration in terms of the Premature Infant Pain Profile-Revised (PIPP-R) score.

Methods: This single-centre retrospective chart analysis was conducted in the neonatal intensive care unit at a quaternary care children's hospital. Neonates who received all prescribed doses of acetaminophen by continu - ous rectal administration for 24 h or more, from January 1, 2011, to December 31, 2012, were included. For the primary objective, hepatotoxicity was assessed in terms of changes in liver enzyme levels, and nephrotoxicity was assessed in terms of changes from baseline serum creatinine values.

Results: Twenty-five patients, who received a total of 27 courses of acetaminophen by rectal administration, met the inclusion criteria. Median gestational age at initiation of acetaminophen was 37.0 weeks (interquartile range 35.0-39.8 weeks). Values of alanine aminotransferase remained within normal limits during acetaminophen therapy for all but 3 patients, for whom the changes were attributable to confounding factors. Renal function remained unchanged. The secondary outcome of efficacy (based on PIPP-R score) could not be evaluated because of concurrent use of opioids for most patients.

Conclusions: Continuous rectal administration of acetaminophen over a short period (< 48 h) appeared to be well tolerated. The conclusions that can be drawn from these results are limited because of small sample size, the prescribing of doses lower than those recommended by the hospital's formulary, and limited blood sampling. Further studies are required.


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