Opiate analgesics and testing of post traumatic amnesia in school-aged children

Louise Parry*, Naomi Brookes, Adrienne Epps, Suncica Lah

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: To assess the validity of the Westmead PTA scale in school-aged children treated with opiate analgesics. Method: Twenty-eight hospitalized children without brain injury, aged between 8 and 16 years treated with opiate analgesics for pain relief following surgery were tested on the Westmead PTA scale. Pain and stress levels were also self-reported each day. Results: Only 29% (n = 7) of children assessed over four days obtained a maximum score of 12/12 on three consecutive days, thus 71% would have been deemed to have been in PTA when they were not. The percentage of children who obtained a maximum score significantly decreased over consecutive days of assessment, due to an increase in error rate on picture memory items. Self-reported pain and stress ratings were not correlated with PTA scores. Conclusions: Opiate analgesia can disrupt performance on the Westmead PTA scale in school-aged children resulting in a high false-positive error rate. It is therefore important to record pain medication schedules and interpret results cautiously when opiate analgesia is used following a TBI. Alteration of the method of administration of the memory items should be researched as this may increase the validity of the scale for children with TBI treated with opiate analgesics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)914-920
Number of pages7
JournalBrain Injury
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 6 Jun 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • pediatric
  • PTA assessment
  • traumatic brain injury


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