Emergency department crowding and analgesic delay in pediatric sickle cell pain crises

Pediatr Emerg Care. 2011 Oct;27(10):911-7. doi: 10.1097/PEC.0b013e3182302871.


Objectives: The objectives of the study were to test the impact of emergency department (ED) crowding and to identify factors associated with delay in analgesic administration in pediatric sickle cell pain crises.

Methods: This was a cross-sectional study at a children's hospital ED. Data included demographics, clinical features, triage acuity, 10-level triage pain score, and arrival-to-analgesic-administration time. Emergency department census was the crowding measure assigned to each patient at arrival. Severe pain was a triage pain score of more than 7. Delays of more than 60 minutes from arrival to analgesic administration represented poor care. Logistic regression tested the effect of ED census on time to analgesic administration after adjusting for patient demographic and clinical characteristics.

Results: From 243 encounters (161 patients), we excluded 11 visits (missing charts [n = 7], no pain at triage [n = 3], analgesic refusal [n = 1]). Final analysis involved 232 encounters (150 patients). Most were black with hemoglobin SS. Median age was 12 years. Mean ED census was 57. Median time from arrival to analgesic administration was 90 minutes. Analgesics were administered in less than 60 minutes in 70 encounters (30%). Most delays occurred after triage. Univariate analysis revealed that analgesic administration within 60 minutes of arrival was associated with severe pain at triage. After controlling for other factors, analgesic administration was significantly delayed during higher ED census and significantly earlier for young children and those with severe pain at triage. The time to analgesic administration from arrival significantly increased per increasing quartile of ED census (P = 0.0009).

Conclusion: Emergency department crowding is associated with delay in analgesic administration in pediatric patients with sickle cell pain crisis.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Analgesics / administration & dosage*
  • Anemia, Sickle Cell
  • Child
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / organization & administration*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Hospitals, Pediatric / organization & administration
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Pain / prevention & control
  • Process Assessment, Health Care
  • Texas


  • Analgesics