Author Archives: DrReynolds

Sedation Physician Compensation Survey

Over the last decade the field of pediatric sedation has evolved into a specialty within a specialty. At some institutions this specialty is within anesthesiology and at others it is within a pediatric specialty (critical care, emergency medicine, or hospital medicine). While the provider type may vary between institutions (and even within institutions), the majority of sedation programs use anesthesia codes to bill for their professional fees. This raises the question… “Are providers being compensated based on the service that they provide (and bill) or based on the market rate for their respective board certification?” Earlier this year Dr. Shakari Narayan sent out a survey across the SPS listserv looking at physician compensation for sedation services.


MAC or Moderate Sedation?

This is a topic of some controversy in the sedation community.  On the one side is a group that maintains anesthesia codes (MAC) are exclusively to be used by board certified anesthesiologists providing anesthesia care.  On the other side, the group that maintains anesthesia codes are based on service provided, not provider board certification.  There are valid arguments on both sides of the aisle and this post is not an attempt to address this controversy.

One thing is certain though… if anyone wants to generate an income by providing sedation services to children, they cannot do so by billing moderate sedation codes.  The reimbursement for this service is so poor as to be almost laughable.  This is not to mention that the level of service provided when placing a patient on a propofol infusion is clearly not within the scope of “moderate sedation.”

CMS Guidelines?

Perhaps the best reference to address this issue is the most recent interpretive CMS guidelines on pediatric sedation. I feel like these guidelines clearly address this issue:

 Monitored anesthesia care (MAC):

anesthesia care that includes the monitoring of the patient by a practitioner who is qualified to administer anesthesia as defined by the regulations at §482.52(a). Indications for MAC depend on the nature of the procedure, the patient’s clinical condition, and/or the potential need to convert to a general or regional anesthetic. Deep sedation/analgesia is included in MAC.

General anesthesia, regional anesthesia and monitored anesthesia, including deep sedation/analgesia, may only be administered by:

  • A qualified anesthesiologist
  • An MD or DO (other than an anesthesiologist);
  • A dentist, oral surgeon or podiatrist who is qualified to administer anesthesia under State law;
  • A CRNA who is supervised by the operating practitioner or by an anesthesiologist who is immediately available if needed; or
  • An anesthesiologist’s assistant under the supervision of an anesthesiologist who is immediately available if needed.

Thus, the practice of different physicians specialities providing deep sedation, billing MAC, and collecting the appropriate reimbursement seems to be well supported.

Provider Compensation

Based on Board Certification

Physicians these days are becoming employees.  Many employers (hospitals) set market-based salaries which are loosely based on national or regional data, and may or may not be correlated with actual collections.  In this model there is a fairly consistent increase in salary as you compare general pediatricians/hospitalists to sub-specialist pediatricians and anesthesiologists.  A recent survey sent out to the SPS listserv confirms this trend of Board Certification based compensation for  sedation providers.

The problem

While it is easy to find salary ranges for all the various fields of medicine, the exclusive (or partial) practice of pediatric sedation is much more obscure.  Thus it reasons that most people just get paid what they would have otherwise been paid (based on board certification).  However, given that all providers are using the same billing codes and essentially generating the same collections, there are two potential problems:

  1. Higher compensated providers may be overcompensated based on revenue generation.
  2. Lower compensated providers may be under-compensated based on revenue generation.

The pediatric anesthesiologist

I have heard it argued (#1 above) that a sedation service is unable to generate enough revenue to support the market-rate based salary for a pediatric anesthesiologist.  However, Joe Cravero, at an SPA Presentation in 2010, was able to show that a well-designed anesthesiologist based sedation program could not only support itself but also generate a positive operating margin.

The pediatric sub-specialist

The market based rate for a pediatric sub-specialist is not markedly different from an anesthesiologist.  Given that most will split their time between sedation and their pediatric sub-specialty, there is probably very little “under compensation” by paying pediatric sub-specialists their market-based salary.

The pediatric hospitalist

This is where the potential gap in revenue generation versus provider compensation starts to widen.  The most recent data for general pediatrician compensation as of May 2011 is $198, 379.  However, general pediatricians that practice exclusively hospital medicine generally are compensated about 15% less than a general pediatrician in an office based practice.  So the gap between what a pediatric hospitalists might get paid ($160K) and the revenue generated (enough to support a pediatric anesthesiologists salary) can be quite substantial.

One Solution

Many hospital medicine physicians are actually subsidized by the hospital.  This is a consequence of volume based productivity.  It is just not possible to see enough patients in a hospital-based setting (15-20/day) to generate enough revenue to support a physician salary.  So a deep sedation service actually makes good financial sense for a pediatric hospital medicine practice.  It allows the practice to provide a service that generates revenue to offset some of the losses from providing inpatient care. 

While I have not run the numbers, I would expect that a combination of time on a sedation service and on a hospital medicine service would strike the right balance and make hospitalists a financial asset to an employer.  This model is being developed at our institution and I think it will likely become the model for this evolving pediatric sub-specialty in many other institutions as well.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Pediatric Sedation

A question was recently posted on the listserv asking about the sedation practice of different practitioners when it comes to the patient with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).  As is often the case, there was a spectrum of responses.  One comment referenced the ASA guidelines on the perioperative management of OSA.  The goal of this post is to review these guidelines and reflect on their recommendations as it relates to deep sedation in the non-operative setting.

OSA Identification and Assessment

None, Mild, Moderate, Severe

This can readily be determined by a sleep study.  However the reality in clinical practice is that many pediatric patients with signs and symptoms of OSA have not had a sleep study.  In this case the advisory committee suggests:

Such patients should be treated as though they have moderate sleep apnea unless one or more of the signs or symptoms is severely abnormal (markedly increased BMI, respiratory pauses that are frightening to the observer, or the patient regularly falls asleep within minutes after being left unstimulated).

Based on this criteria there are a considerable number of my own patients that would be classified as having moderate sleep apnea by history and physical alone… and a handful that would be classified as severe.

OSA Scoring System: Perioperative Risk

Standard, Increased, or Significantly Increased?

Once you have classified the patient’s OSA, then you are advised to assign an OSA Score to better define their perioperative risk.  This risk can be broken down to standard (o-3), increased (4), and significantly increased (5 or 6).  Risk is scored from three different categories:

  1. Severity of OSA
  2. Invasiveness of surgery and anesthesia
  3. Requirement for postoperative opioids

The first is easy to define but the other criteria are difficult to extrapolate to our specific patient population.

General Anesthesia with a secured airway?

The guidelines seem to indicate that for those patients who are at increased perioperative risk due to the OSA… general anesthesia with a secured airway is the preferred practice.  This is confirmed based on a follow-up questionnaire sent to 68 anesthesia consultants who preferred GA with a secured airway to deep sedation for increased risk patients.

A few Problems

What is deep sedation?

As with many issues that are broadly aimed at perioperative management, this guideline is difficult to apply to the specific situation of deep sedation in the non-operative setting.  This scoring system starts patients off at a score of 2 for moderate OSA and 3 for severe OSA.  The rest of the scoring system is difficult to apply to the pediatric sedation population that we see because deep sedation is not well defined (only moderate sedation versus general anesthesia).

Procedure type?

Again these guidelines are designed for the perioperative management of patients expected to have surgery.  Much of what we do is very different from surgery.  Most is far less risky.  However some things, like a long MRI study with poor access to the airway, may actually be more risky.

Tonsils, obesity, or both?

The other confusing issue is that OSA in the pediatric population is generally seen in 2 fairly distinct populations – younger children with adenotonsillar hypertrophy and older adolescents with obesity.  The pathology and management of sedation related complications may differ considerably between the two.

East Tennessee Children’s Hospital

Clinical Practice Guideline

Based on the article above, and in light of the problems associated with the application to pediatric sedation outside the OR, the East Tennessee Children’s Hospital drafted a Clinical Practice Guideline for the sedation management for OSA.  This is one institution’s solution to the problem.

What is your practice?

There are still many factors that remain unclear. Especially specific patient factors like snoring, tonsils, and fat distribution.  It has also been the observation of some that age plays a role (perhaps younger kids with a higher BMI tolerate procedures better than their older counterparts)?   This is certainly an area in need of further clarification by well controlled clinical trials.  Leave a comment below and tell us about your approach to pediatric sedation for children with OSA.



Practice Guidelines for the Perioperative Management of Patients with Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Glycopyrrolate and Pediatric Sedation

Dr. Mick Connors recently posted a question on the listserv

How many people are using glycopyrrolate for pediatric sedation?

A little background

There are many reports in the literature of increased perioperative adverse respiratory events associated with nasal congestion and upper respiratory events.  It has been suggested that glycopyrrolate may reduce the incidence of these adverse events through anticholinergic mechanisms that reduce secretions.  However, a recent study failed to show a reduction in adverse perioperative events in children with upper respiratory infections undergoing general anesthesia.

Ketamine is common agent used for procedural sedation in the emergency department setting.  In addition to its sedative properties, ketamine is a potent sialogogue.  Historically, standard practice was to administer an anticholinergic, such as gylcopyrrolate, prior to ketamine administration to prevent adverse respiratory events.  Published observational studies offer conflicting results as to the effectiveness of this regimen.  However, a recently published meta-analysis, failed to show any benefit and suggested that patients who received glycopyrrolate may have an increased incidence of adverse respiratory events.

The Rationale for Glycopyrrolate

Despite these conflicting studies, it is still common practice in many centers to administer glycopyrrolate to children with increased secretions who will have deep procedural sedation with propofol.  There are many reasons to believe glycopyrrolate might be beneficial in this patient population.  As opposed to the study looking at perioperative events, many of these patients are receiving deep sedation with propofol for non-invasive procedures (like MRI).  These patients are generally lying supine for long periods of time (45 minutes or longer).  Since secretions are likely to pool in the posterior pharynx in the supine position, it reasons that decreasing secretions may be helpful.  Further, since most patients that receive propofol for deep sedation do so without an ETT or LMA, their airway is not protected from these secretions which may result in an increased incidence of adverse respiratory events.

The lack of benefit suggested by the observational studies with ketamine is difficult to extrapolate to the patient population that receives deep sedation with propofol.  The studies with ketamine are generally for brief dissociative sedation for painful ER procedures.  Conversely, deep sedation with propofol for MRI is a much longer procedure, which for the reasons above may represent different risks associated with secretions.

Interestingly, a recent abstract presented at the SPS Annual Conference showed that patients receiving brief deep sedation with propofol +/- fentanyl had an association between pre-procedure anxiety and adverse respiratory events.  It could be reasoned that many of these patients with anxiety are also crying and have increased nasopharyngeal secretions.  Thus an agent that helps dry the mucous membranes may be helpful in this setting.

The Listserve Responses

From my observation on the listserve it would seem that most physicians choose one of four options:

  1. Use Glycopyrrolate
  2. Use Saline and Nasal Suction
  3. Use Neosynephrine Spray
  4. Do Nothing

What would you do?


Tait AR, et. al.  G;ycopyrrolate does not reduce the incidence of perioperative adverse events in children with upper respiratory infections.  Anesth Analg. 2007;104: 265-70.

Green SM,  Anticholinergics and ketamine sedation in children: A secondary analysis of atropine versus glycopyrrolate.  Acad Emerg Med. 2010; 17(2): 157-62.

Hollman G, et. al. Relationship of pre-sedation anxiety in children undergoing invasive oncologic procedures and induction compliance, recovery patterns, and adverse events. SPS Annual Conference. 2010

Egg Anaphylaxis and Propofol

A few months ago Dr. Ed Goroza asked an interesting question:

How do sedation providers approach the child with a history of anaphlyaxis to eggs when it comes to the use of propofol?

While most anesthesia texts and “experts” in the field do not think that egg-allergy is a true contraindication to the use of propofol, it still seems that many are reluctant to use it in the egg allergic patient.

Anesthesia and Analgesia

The science

Here is an exert from Anesthesia & Analgesia that highlights some of the current science surrounding the issue:

Propofol was originally formulated with the surfactant Cremophor EL, but a series of hypersensitivity reactions prompted a change in the formulation (36,71,72). Propofol (2,6-diisopropylphenol) is currently formulated in a lipid vehicle containing soybean oil, egg lecithin, and glycerol. The incidence of anaphylactic reactions with the new formulation is 1 in 60,000, although it has been reported to cause 1.2% of cases of perioperative anaphylaxis in France (73). A more recent report from the same group in France demonstrated that 2.1% of cases of intraoperative anaphylaxis are due to propofol (5). In a report of 14 patients with documented propofol allergy on first exposure, the 2 isopropyl groups of the propofol were thought to be the sensitizing epitopes (36). Isopropyl groups are present in dermatologic products and may account for anaphylactic reaction to propofol on the first exposure. In addition, there is a report of an anaphylactic reaction to propofol at the time of the third exposure to the drug (72). Phenol may have acted as an antigen and produced sensitization that led to an episode of anaphylaxis on reexposure. Most cases of drug allergy to propofol are IgE mediated, and specific IgE RIA and intradermal skin tests have been reported (36).

Propofol is formulated in a lipid emulsion containing 10% soybean oil, 2.25% glycerol, and 1.2% egg lecithin. The egg lecithin component of propofol’s lipid vehicle is a highly purified egg yolk component (74). Ovalbumin, the principal protein of eggs, is present in the egg white. Skinprick and intradermal testing with propofol and with its lipid vehicle (Intralipid) were negative in 25 patients with documented egg allergy (74). The measles-mumps-rubella vaccine does contain small amounts of egg-related antigens (ovalbumin), which are grown in cultures of chick-embryo fibroblasts. However, the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine has been given to egg-allergic children without any episodes of anaphylaxis (75). Therefore, current evidence suggests that egg-allergic patients are not more likely to develop anaphylaxis when exposed to propofol.

As is often the case, the science of medicine does not always correlate with the practice of medicine.  Dr. Goroza surveyed the SPS listserve and the results of that survey are listed below.

Dr. Goroza’s Survey

The practice

Of the 11 responders, only 3 would still give propofol & only if there was no prior reaction to the drug. The majority of the responders would not give propofol and would instead use (some would use more than one method): barbiturates (3 responses), dexmedetomidine alone (3), dexmedetomidine with ketamine (2), benzodiazepine (2), barbiturate with opioid (1) and ketamine alone(1).

It is interesting to note that there is very little  published literature describing this topic. I was able to find the two below:

  1. De Leon-Casasola et al. Anaphylaxis due to propofol. Anesthesiology. 77:384-386,1992.
  2. Hofer. Possible anaphylaxis after propofol in a child with food allergy. Annals of Pharmacotherapy. 37(3):398-401, 2003.

It seems agreeable that the choice of not using propofol in these situations is driven by concerns over liability. The association is perhaps rare that I have yet to meet an anesthesiologist who has seen one.

Ed Goroza

What would you do?

Please leave a reply below and tell us how you would handle this situation.

Pediatric Sedation Rotation

There has been a fair bit of discussion regarding the need for a pediatric sedation rotation.  Currently sedation is not mentioned anywhere by the American Board of Pediatrics or in the specific training requirement issued by the ACGME & RRC.  As such, many programs that have identified a need for this training must attempt to incorporate it into a pediatric anesthesia rotation or offer it as a separate elective.

For many programs though residents get the bulk (if any) of their sedation experiences as part of an ER or ICU rotation.  Since the need for sedation in these locations is somewhat unpredictable, it may leave many pediatric residents finishing their residency with neither the skills to safely provide sedation nor a proper understanding of the issues surrounding outpatient procedural sedation.  In our institution most graduating residents report 0-5 sedation encounters.  This is just not sufficient to develop any sort of competency in this important area of pediatric practice.

The Challenge

This presents a challenge for many of our pediatric colleagues who enter general practice.  The sedation process begins with the ordering physician.  For those of us non-anesthesiologists who provide procedural sedation outside the operating room, we know the most important aspect of our practice is proper patient selection.  This process begins in the general pediatricians office, when the decision is made about what test to order and the need for sedation, general anesthesia, or perhaps a skilled non-pharmacological approach.

This also represents a challenge for the pediatric hospitalist.  Given the shortage of pediatric anesthesiologists, intensivists, and ER docs, the responsibility of providing pediatric sedation is increasingly falling upon the shoulders of the pediatric hospitalist.  This is especially true in smaller community centers where these subspeciality resources are particularly scarce.

When I attended the Sedation Provider Course offered by SPS in May of 2009, the overwhleming majority in attendance were pediatric hospitalists.  Given that many pediatric hospitalists have no additional training following their general pediatric residency, it begs the question… Where will they get the experience and training needed to provide this important pediatric service?

All of this to say, I think all pediatric residents would benefit from formal training in sedation.  This seems to be the consensus on the Listserve as well.  What exactly does this mean?  I think this question is a difficult one to answer.  In general, I think this means that we as Sedation Providers and Members of the Society for Pediatric Sedation need to pursue options to have sedation training move from non-existent (or sporadic at best) to a formal RRC requirement.

The Solution

I think Joe Cravero and Jennifer O’ Flaherty with the PainFree Program at Dartmouth have taken the first steps toward an effective solution.  They have a formal sedation rotation that all pediatric interns take.  It comes complete with objectives, exams, didactics, and practical skills.  The Primer of Pediatric Sedation is the foundation of the curriculum.  It seems to me that this is a model we could all attempt to weave into the resident curriculum at our own institutions.  Ultimately though, it really needs to be a formal part of pediatric residency training.  Exactly where to place it in that already complicated list of requirements remains to be seen. Continue reading