Pediatric emergency department analgesic practice

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To review recent acute pain management care issues in a pediatric emergency department (ED) in order to identify opportunities for a performance improvement program


Descriptive, retrospective chart review


Urban pediatric hospital ED


Between January 1 and December 31, 1994 consecutive patients identified by ED chart review with the following three acute painful conditions were included; sickle cell vasoocclusive crisis (VOC) not complicated by fever or neurologic symptoms, isolated lower extremity long bone fractures < 12 hours old that did not require a reduction, and second degree burns <12 hours old. Data collection concluded when between 50 and 55 episodes of each painful condition were identified.

Main Outcome Measures:

ED analgesic administration, initial analgesic dose, initial time elapsed to analgesic administration, notation of pain relief, and home analgesic instruction. Recommended analgesic starting doses were chosen from the 1992 Agency for Health Care Policy and Research Clinical Practice Guidelines




ED analgesic use for VOC was100%, for fracture was 31%, and for burn was 26%. A recommended starting analgesic dose was given to 78% with VOC, 69% with fracture, and 79% with burn. Mean time to initial analgesic for VOC was 52 minutes, for fracture was 86 minutes, and for burn was 29 minutes. In those given analgesics, notation of pain relief for fracture was 19% and for burn was 29%, this improved for VOC where it was 88%. Home analgesic instruction for VOC was 100%, for fracture was 74%, and for burn was 27%


These data from 1994 document suboptimal analgesic use and home analgesic instruction for children in our ED with burns and fractures. Other opportunities in our ED for acute pain management improvement include optimizing initial analgesic doses, shortening the time elapsed to initial analgesic administration, and documenting the response to pain management

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