Low acuity abdominal pain in the emergency department: still a long wait

Geraldine Lee, Sarah Smith, Natahsa Jennings
International Emergency Nursing 2008, 16 (2): 94-100

BACKGROUND: There are many pressures placed on Emergency Departments (EDs) and anecdotally patients with low acuity abdominal pain can spend a long time in ED waiting for treatment.

AIMS: This paper examines the practices in two EDs in Melbourne, Australia. Firstly, the characteristics of low acuity abdominal pain presentations in each ED is presented followed by a statistical comparison of these characteristics in the two EDs in terms of administration of medication, taking bloods and the length of time patients waited to see the nurse and doctor. A random convenience sample of 10 abdominal presentations was taken from medical records of each hospital from October 2006.

FINDINGS: Comparing the two EDs in terms of abdominal pain presentations demonstrated no statistically significant differences in terms of patient characteristics. Low acuity abdominal presentations waited a significant amount of time for initiation of treatment such as initiation of analgesia and having bloods taken (on average 80-90 min) and these delays negatively impact on overall treatment times (over 4h).

CONCLUSION: Low acuity abdominal presentations waited a significant amount of time for initiation of treatment. This convenience sample demonstrates the lack of a standardized protocol for abdominal pain presentations in the ED.

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