Prevalence and management of acute pain in prehospital emergency medicine

Prehosp Emerg Care. Jul-Sep 2010;14(3):334-9. doi: 10.3109/10903121003760218.


Background: Less is known about the prevalence of pain in prehospital emergency medicine than about pain in the emergency department. Objectives. To estimate the prehospital prevalence of pain and to identify the factors associated with oligoanalgesia.

Methods: The mobile intensive care units of the emergency services of a Paris suburb conducted this prospective study. All consecutive patients aged 16 years or older who were able to self-assess pain were included around the clock over a period of 11 months in 2007.

Results: Among the 2,279 included patients, 947 had acute pain (42% [95% confidence interval (CI) 40-44]). Pain was intense to severe in 64% of patients. Factors associated with acute pain were trauma (odds ratio [OR] = 2.9 [1.9-4.3]) and age under 75 years (OR = 2.2 [1.7-2.8]). Intense pain was significantly associated with pain of cardiac or traumatic origin. Among the 1,364 patients transported by the mobile units, 48% experienced acute pain (71% had intense to severe pain). An analgesic agent was administered to 73%. According to multivariate analysis, only gynecologic/obstetric emergencies were associated with inadequate treatment (OR = 0.2 [95% CI 0.1-0.6]). Overall, 51% of patients [46-56] experienced pain relief. The rate of pain relief was lowest in patients suffering from trauma or a gynecologic/obstetric disorder.

Conclusion: In our studied population, pain in prehospital emergency medicine affects 42% of patients. However, the rate varies widely according to the origin of the pain. Pain management is inadequate, as only one in two patients experiences relief.

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Analgesics / administration & dosage
  • Analgesics / therapeutic use
  • Cohort Studies
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Emergency Medical Services*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain / drug therapy*
  • Pain / epidemiology
  • Paris / epidemiology
  • Prospective Studies
  • Severity of Illness Index


  • Analgesics