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Papers of the Week

2020 May 01

Anaesth Intensive Care

Little words BIG impact: Perioperative communication for children with burns.


Cyna AM
Anaesth Intensive Care. 2020 May 01:310057X20914909.
PMID: 32356481.


Anaesthetists are key members of teams caring for burn-injured children in almost every aspect of their management. Their role can involve initial resuscitation, intensive care, analgesia, and anaesthesia for multiple procedures both acutely and subsequently for scar management. As key members of burns management teams, effective communication with patients and their families as well as other members of the burn care team is vital. There is little guidance, however, addressing how the anaesthetist might communicate and optimise anaesthetic burns care of children pre-, intra-, and postoperatively. Advances in the understanding of the neurobiology of communication suggests that we need to consider positive (placebo) or negative (nocebo) subconscious processes. Learnable language structures GREAT (Greeting, Rapport, Expectations, Addressing concerns, Tacit agreement) and LAURS (Listening, Acceptance, Utilisation, Reframing, Suggestion) can facilitate any patient or family interaction ensuring children and their parents feel they are being heard and understood. Talking about rather than when about to perform a potentially painful procedure can also facilitate burns care with children. Other strategies include the avoidance of nocebo communications or apologising before a painful procedure and, instead, focusing on therapeutic (placebo) alternatives. Children do not view pain in the same way as adults do, and techniques such as play therapy and hypnosis can be valuable adjuncts to traditional analgesia administration in burns care, with the added benefit of minimising side-effects. The use of regular time-outs during prolonged burns surgeries is a helpful communication strategy between the anaesthetist and other members of the burns team that can optimise patient safety. Communication is a core clinical skill in the practice of anaesthesia during paediatric burns care and is an area for future research.