Critically ill pediatric patients commonly experience opioid-induced dysmotility. Methylnaltrexone, a subcutaneously administered, peripherally acting mu-opioid receptor antagonist, is a compelling adjunct to enteral laxatives in patients with opioid-induced dysmotility. Data for methylnaltrexone use in critically ill pediatric patients are limited. The purpose of this study was to determine the effectiveness and safety of methylnaltrexone for opioid-induced dysmotility in critically ill infants and children.


Patients younger than 18 years who received subcutaneous methylnaltrexone from January 1, 2013, through September 15, 2020, in the pediatric intensive care units at an academic institution were included in this retrospective analysis. Outcomes included incidence of bowel movement, enteral nutrition feeding volume, and adverse drug events.


Twenty-four patients, median age 3.5 years (IQR, 0.58–11.1), received 72 methylnaltrexone doses. The median dose was 0.15 mg/kg (IQR, 0.15–0.15). Patients were receiving a mean ± SD of 7.5 ± 4.5 mg/kg/day of oral morphine milligram equivalents (MMEs) at methylnaltrexone administration and received opioids for median 13 days (IQR, 8.8–21) prior to methylnaltrexone administration. A bowel movement occurred within 4 hours following 43 (60%) administrations and within 24 hours following 58 (81%) administrations. Enteral nutrition volume increased by 81% (p = 0.002) following administration. Three patients had emesis and 2 received anti-nausea medication. No significant changes in sedation or pain scores were observed. Withdrawal scores and daily oral MMEs decreased following administration (p = 0.008 and p = 0.002, respectively).


Methylnaltrexone may be an effective treatment for opioid-induced dysmotility in critically ill pediatric patients with low risk of adverse effects.

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