Background: Nonpharmacologic interventions, such as distraction, have been shown to be powerful adjuncts in reducing pain and anxiety in children with both acute and chronic painful conditions. There are no controlled studies evaluating these interventions as adjuncts to facilitate completion of painful procedures in the pediatric emergency department (ED).
Objective: We assessed the effectiveness of distraction techniques in reducing the sensory and affective components of pain among pediatric patients undergoing laceration repair in the ED.
Methods: Eligible children between 6 and 18 years of age (N = 240) presenting to the ED for laceration repair were randomly assigned to an intervention or control arm. Those assigned to the intervention arm were given a choice of age-appropriate distracters during laceration repair. Quantitative measures of pain intensity, situational anxiety, and pain distress (as perceived by the parent) were assessed by using the 7-point Facial Pain Scale, State Trait Anxiety Inventory for Children, and a visual analog scale, respectively, before and after laceration repair. The State Trait Anxiety Inventory for Children was performed in children > or = 10 years of age.
Results: There was no difference in mean change in Facial Pain Scale scores between the control and the intervention groups in children < 10 years of age. Multivariate analysis in this same age group showed that the intervention was independently associated with a reduction in pain distress as perceived by parents based on the mean change in visual analog scale scores. In older children, the intervention was independently associated with reduction in situational anxiety but not in pain intensity or in parental perception of pain distress.
Conclusions: The use of distraction techniques is effective in reducing situational anxiety in older children and lowering parental perception of pain distress in younger children. This technique may have a role in improving the quality of management of procedural pain in a pediatric ED setting.