Analgesia administration for acute abdominal pain in the pediatric emergency department

Pediatr Emerg Care. 2006 Jan;22(1):18-21. doi: 10.1097/01.pec.0000195761.97199.37.


Objective: To document the use of analgesia for children with acute abdominal pain in the Pediatric Emergency Department (PED) and to compare between children with suspected appendicitis in a high versus low probability.

Study design: Patients 0-16 years recruited prospectively as part of another PED study in Toronto. History of present illness and physical examination was available, and information on analgesia administered in the PED was retrospectively collected from charts. Physicians' probability of appendicitis before any imaging was recorded. A follow-up call was made to verify final diagnosis.

Results: We included 438 patients, 16% with appendicitis. Analgesics were given 154 times to 112 patients. Thirty-one percent of the cohort received analgesia before seeing the physician, mostly febrile, 37% after seeing the physician, and 17% after seeing a pediatric-surgery consultant. Fifteen percent received multiple dosages. Underdosing was recorded in 14% of medications, mostly morphine (24%). Analgesia was given significantly more often to children with high probability of appendicitis. Age was not a factor in analgesia administration.

Conclusion: Children with abdominal pain receive more analgesia when the physician suspects appendicitis, yet only in half of the cases, and only 15% receive opioids. Opioid underdosing happens in a quarter of times it is given.

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Pain / diagnosis*
  • Abdominal Pain / drug therapy
  • Adolescent
  • Analgesics / administration & dosage*
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / administration & dosage*
  • Appendicitis / diagnosis*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Medical Records
  • Morphine / administration & dosage*
  • Pediatrics
  • Probability
  • Retrospective Studies


  • Analgesics
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal
  • Morphine