Emergency department analgesia for fracture pain

Julie C Brown, Eileen J Klein, Charlotte W Lewis, Brian D Johnston, Peter Cummings
Annals of Emergency Medicine 2003, 42 (2): 197-205

STUDY OBJECTIVES: We analyze records of all emergency department (ED) patients with extremity or clavicular fractures to describe analgesic use, compare analgesia between adults and children, and compare analgesia between the subset of these adults and children with documented moderate or severe pain. Among children, we compare treatment between pediatric and nonpediatric facilities.

METHODS: Analysis of the ED component of the National Center for Health Statistics National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey for 1997 through 2000 was conducted. The proportion of patients with closed extremity and clavicular fracture that received any analgesic and narcotic analgesic medications was determined for each age category. Survey-adjusted regression analyses compared pain and narcotic medications by age and ED type (pediatric versus other). Analyses were repeated for the subset of patients with moderate or severe pain severity scores.

RESULTS: Of 2,828 patients with isolated closed fractures of the extremities or clavicle, 64% received any analgesic and 42% received a narcotic analgesic. Pain severity scores were recorded for 59% of visits overall, 47% of children younger than 4 years, and 34% of children younger than 1 year. Among patients with documented moderate or severe pain, 73% received an analgesic and 54% received a narcotic analgesic. Compared with adults, a lower proportion of children (< or = 15 years) received either any analgesic or a narcotic analgesic (P <.001). After adjustment for confounders and survey design, the proportion of patients aged 0 to 3, 4 to 8, 9 to 15, 16 to 29, 30 to 69, and 70 years and older who received any analgesic was 54% (95% confidence interval [CI] 41% to 67%), 63% (95% CI 57% to 68%), 60% (95% CI 57% to 64%), 67% (95% CI 62% to 73%), 68% (95% CI 64% to 72%), and 58% (95% CI 52% to 65%), respectively; the proportion who received a narcotic analgesic was 21% (95% CI 11% to 31%), 30% (95% CI 22% to 37%), 27% (95% CI 23% to 32%), 47% (95% CI 40% to 54%), 51% (95% CI 46% to 56%), and 41% (95% CI 35% to 48%), respectively. Compared with children treated in other EDs, children treated in pediatric EDs were about as likely to receive any analgesia (adjusted relative risk [RR] 1.1; 95% CI 0.9 to 1.3) or narcotic analgesia (adjusted RR 0.9; 95% CI 0.6 to 1.2).

CONCLUSION: In pediatric and adult patients, pain medications were frequently not part of ED treatment for fractures, even for visits with documented moderate or severe pain. Pain severity scores were often not recorded. Pediatric patients were least likely to receive analgesics, especially narcotics.

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