Multicenter Evaluation of Prehospital Opioid Pain Management in Injured Children

Prehosp Emerg Care. 2016 Nov-Dec;20(6):759-767. doi: 10.1080/10903127.2016.1194931. Epub 2016 Jul 13.


Background: The National Association of Emergency Medical Services Physicians' (NAEMSP) Position Statement on Prehospital Pain Management and the joint National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Emergency Medical Services for Children (EMSC) Evidence-based Guideline for Prehospital Analgesia in Trauma aim to improve the recognition, assessment, and treatment of prehospital pain. The impact of implementation of these guidelines on pain management in children by emergency medical services (EMS) agencies has not been assessed.

Objective: Determine the change in frequency of documented pain severity assessment and opiate administration among injured pediatric patients in three EMS agencies after adoption of best practice recommendations.

Methods: This is a retrospective study of children <18 years of age with a prehospital injury-related primary impression from three EMS agencies. Each agency independently implemented pain protocol changes which included adding the use of age-appropriate pain scales, decreasing the minimum age for opiate administration, and updating fentanyl dosing. We abstracted data from prehospital electronic patient records before and after changes to the pain management protocols. The primary outcomes were the frequency of administration of opioid analgesia and documentation of pain severity assessment as recorded in the prehospital patient care record.

Results: A total of 3,597 injured children were transported prior to pain protocol changes and 3,743 children after changes. Opiate administration to eligible patients across study sites regardless of documentation of pain severity was 156/3,089 (5%) before protocol changes and 175/3,509 (5%) after (p = 0.97). Prior to protocol changes, 580 (18%) children had documented pain assessments and 430 (74%) had moderate-to-severe pain. After protocol changes, 644 (18%) patients had pain severity documented with 464 (72%) in moderate-to-severe pain. For all study agencies, pain severity was documented in 13%, 19%, and 22% of patient records both before and after protocol changes. There was a difference in intranasal fentanyl administration rates before (27%) and after (17%) protocol changes (p = 0.02).

Conclusion: The proportion of injured children who receive prehospital opioid analgesia remains suboptimal despite implementation of best practice recommendations. Frequency of pain severity assessment of injured children is low. Intranasal fentanyl administration may be an underutilized modality of prehospital opiate administration.

Keywords: Key words:; anaglesia; pain; pediatrics; prehospital.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Analgesics, Opioid / therapeutic use*
  • Child
  • Documentation / statistics & numerical data
  • Emergency Medical Services / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pain / drug therapy*
  • Pain Management / methods*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Retrospective Studies


  • Analgesics, Opioid