What Is Pediatric Advanced Life Support?

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  • Written By: C.B. Fox
  • Edited By: Susan Barwick
  • Last Modified Date: 04 November 2019
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Pediatric advanced life support is administered to children who have suffered from heart failure. Though spontaneous heart failure is rare in children, it is possible for a child to suffer cardiac arrest as a result of the progression of a disease or shock from a serious injury. The techniques used in pediatric advanced life support are different than those used in adult medical care.

Trained medical professionals administer pediatric advanced life support. Though people trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) may assist when a child goes into cardiac arrest outside of a hospital setting, once the child reaches the hospital, care will be conducted by a team of doctors and nurses. The first thing that the medical team will do when a child is admitted with heart failure is to assess the situation and determine what the most effective course of treatment will be.

When a child’s heart stops beating, he or she must receive specialized treatment to make sure that blood continues to flow through the body. Pediatric advanced life support can include chest compressions, which are performed differently on children than on adults. A defibrillator may also be used in an attempt to restore heart function.


In many cases, heart failure in children is due to asphyxiation. Children who require pediatric advanced life support are often given treatment that assists with breathing. Though a child may be intubated, it is also common to administer oxygen through a bag mask, which can be safer and less traumatic to a child's body. If the child does require intubation, it is performed by someone who is specially trained to do so. The anatomy of a child’s breathing passageways is different than that of an adult, and it is possible to cause injury if unfamiliar with pediatric anatomy.

During pediatric advanced life support, a number of medications can be administered to the child. Saline solution or lactated ringer’s fluids may be given intravenously to try to bring the child out of shock. Other medications may be given through the same intravenous line. Epinephrine, adenosine, and sodium bicarbonate can all be used to restore heart function. Children may receive the same medications as adults, though they are often given different dosages based on the approximate weight of the child.


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