Analgesia for older adults with abdominal or back pain in emergency department

West J Emerg Med. 2011 Feb;12(1):43-50.


Objective: To determine the association between age and analgesia for emergency department (ED) patients with abdominal or back pain.

Methods: Using a fully electronic medical record, we performed a retrospective cohort study of adults presenting with abdominal or back pain to two urban EDs. To assess differences in analgesia administration and time to analgesia between age groups, we used chi-square and Kruskal-Wallis test respectively. To adjust for potential confounders, we used a generalized linear model with log link and Gaussian error.

Results: Of 24,752 subjects (mean age 42 years, 65% female, 69% black, mean triage pain score 7.5), the majority (76%) had abdominal pain and 61% received analgesia. The ≥80 years group (n=722; 3%), compared to the 65-79 years group (n=2,080; 8%) and to the <65 years group (n=21,950; 89%), was more often female (71 vs. 61 vs. 65%), black (72 vs. 65 vs. 69%), and had a lower mean pain score (6.6 vs. 7.1 vs. 7.6). Both older groups were less likely to receive any analgesia (48 vs. 59 vs. 62%, p<0.0001) and the oldest group less likely to receive opiates (35 vs. 47 vs. 44%, p<0.0001). Of those who received analgesia, both older groups waited longer for their medication (123 vs. 113 vs. 94 minutes; p<0.0001). After controlling for potential confounders, patients ≥80 years were 17% less likely than the <65 years group to receive analgesia (95% CI 14-20%).

Conclusion: Older adults who present to the ED for abdominal or back pain are less likely to receive analgesia and wait significantly longer for pain medication compared to younger adults.