Project for the introduction of prehospital analgesia with fentanyl and morphine administered by specially trained paramedics in a rural service area in Germany

Maximilian Scharonow, Timo Alberding, Wolfgang Oltmanns, Christian Weilbach
Journal of Pain Research 2017, 10: 2595-2599

Background: In patients with serious illness or trauma, reduction of severe pain is a key therapeutic goal of emergency medical service (EMS) teams. In Germany, only physicians are allowed to use opioid analgesics. In the rural EMS area studied, the mean arrival time for paramedics is 8 minutes, 23 seconds, and for the rescue physician between 10 minutes, 30 seconds and 16 minutes, 59 seconds, depending on EMS site. In cases of parallel callouts, rescue-physician arrival times may be considerably longer.

Objective: During this project, we assessed the administration of the opioid analgesics morphine and fentanyl by specially trained paramedics with regard to analgesia quality and patient safety.

Materials and methods: During the 18-month study period, specially trained paramedics administered morphine or fentanyl to patients with severe pain if indicated and if a rescue physician was not available in time. Besides basic documentation, pain intensity (using a numeric rating scale) and oxygen saturation were measured initially and at hospital handover.

Results: During the 18 months, 4,285 emergency callouts were attended to by the 13 specially trained paramedics of the district (total callouts during this period 21,423). In 77 patients (1.8%), fentanyl (n=53/68.8%) or morphine (n=24/31.2%) was administered. Based on the measurements obtained with the numeric rating scale at the start of treatment (7.9) and upon hospital handover (3.3), pain reduction was 4.52 overall (41.5%, P <0.001): 4.64 with fentanyl (42.9%, P <0.001) and 4.25 with morphine (43.2%, P <0.001). None of the patients had an oxygen saturation <95% at the time of handover, and no patient developed opioid-induced respiratory depression requiring treatment.

Conclusion: The results of this study indicate that the administration of opioid analgesics by specially trained and qualified paramedics is safe and effective.

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