Objective: To compare the effectiveness of intravenous (IV) morphine, intranasal (IN) fentanyl, and inhaled methoxyflurane when administered by paramedics to patients with moderate to severe pain.
Methods: We conducted a retrospective comparative study of adult patients with moderate to severe pain treated by paramedics from the Ambulance Service of New South Wales who received IV morphine, IN fentanyl, or inhaled methoxyflurane either alone or in combination between January 1, 2004, and November 30, 2006. We used multivariate logistic regression to analyze data extracted from a clinical database containing routinely entered information from patient health care records. The primary outcome measure was effective analgesia, defined as a reduction in pain severity of > or = 30% of initial pain score using an 11-point verbal numeric rating scale (VNRS-11).
Results: The study population comprised 52,046 patients aged between 16 and 100 years with VNRS-11 scores of > or = 5. All analgesic agents were effective in the majority of patients (81.8%, 80.0%, and 59.1% for morphine, fentanyl, and methoxyflurane, respectively). There was very strong evidence that methoxyflurane was inferior to both morphine and fentanyl (p < 0.0001). There was strong evidence that morphine was more effective than fentanyl (p = 0.002). There was no evidence that combination analgesia was better than either fentanyl or morphine alone.
Conclusion: Inhaled methoxyflurane, IN fentanyl, and IV morphine are all effective analgesic agents in the out-of-hospital setting. Morphine and fentanyl are significantly more effective analgesic agents than methoxyflurane. Morphine appears to be more effective than IN fentanyl; however, the benefit of IV morphine may be offset to some degree by the ability to administer IN fentanyl without the need for IV access.