Acute pain and availability of analgesia in the prehospital emergency setting in Italy: a problem to be solved

Franco Marinangeli, Cristiano Narducci, Maria Laura Ursini, Antonella Paladini, Alberto Pasqualucci, Antonio Gatti, Giustino Varrassi
Pain Practice: the Official Journal of World Institute of Pain 2009, 9 (4): 282-8

OBJECTIVES: The treatment of acute pain in the prehospital emergency setting remains a significant problem. We evaluated the incidence, site, and possible cause of acute pain in the prehospital period and also the current state of prehospital pain management by evaluating analgesic availability in emergency vehicles in Italy.

METHODS: First aid volunteers documented the presence, intensity, and site of acute pain by questionnaire for over 3 months. Emergency service operations completed a questionnaire on analgesic availability in ambulances and helicopters.

RESULTS: Pain symptoms were present in two-thirds of the patients (n = 383) and ranked as moderate to unbearable in 41.75%. Results of the analgesic availability survey indicate that 10.6% of the ambulance services carry no pain killers (including non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs [NSAIDs] and/or paracetamol) and 11.5% are without an opioid. The emergency helicopter survey showed a significant difference in analgesic availability compared with ambulances, with 97.6% having at least one opioid agent available (weak or strong). A wide geographical variation in the availability of analgesic agents in ambulance and helicopter services was seen.

CONCLUSIONS: There is a high prevalence of pain among patients receiving prehospital emergency treatment in Italy and treatment for acute pain during emergency treatment of trauma patients is inadequate. All emergency vehicles, without distinction, should carry opioids and other analgesic drugs (NSAIDs and paracetamol) and there should be no geographic differences in the availability of pain medications.

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