Comparison of Pain Severity and Management in Burn and Nonburn Trauma Patients

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Burn injuries are generally considered to be among the most painful. However, there is little evidence to support this. It is also unknown if pain management in burn patients differs from patients with other sources of pain. We compared pain severity among patients presenting to emergency departments (EDs) across the United States with burn and nonburn injuries using data generated from the National Hospital Ambulatory Care Survey. Multivariate analyses was performed to determine the association between predictor variables and pain severity as well as pain management in the ED. Of the estimated 527 million ED visits between 2010 and 2013, 2.1 million were due to burns and 128 million were due to nonburn trauma. Mean (SE) initial pain scores by patient group were burns 6.3 (0.27), nonburn trauma 5.4 (0.04), and nontrauma 4.8 (0.04), P < .001. Mean (95% confidence interval) pain scores by specific type of injury were burns 6.4 (5.9–6.9), fractures 6.7 (6.6–6.9), dislocations 6.7(6.3–7.1), and sprains/strains 6.8 (6.7–6.9), P < .001. Pain scores were higher for males and increased with age. Adjusted for age and gender, burns had the smallest effect of all types of injuries on pain score except for open wounds, contusions, and crush injuries. Patients with fractures and dislocations were more likely to receive an opioid than burn patients after adjusting for pain severity. We conclude that pain severity due to burns is no greater than due to dislocations, fractures, and sprains/strains and that burn patients are less likely to receive opioid and nonopioid analgesics than fractures and dislocations.

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