Battlefield Analgesia in Tactical Combat Casualty Care

Wilderness Environ Med. 2017 Jun;28(2S):S109-S116. doi: 10.1016/j.wem.2017.04.001.


At the start of the Afghanistan conflict, battlefield analgesia for US military casualties was achieved primarily through the use of intramuscular (IM) morphine. This is a suboptimal choice, since IM morphine is slow-acting, leading to delays in effective pain relief and the risk of overdose and death when dosing is repeated in order to hasten the onset of analgesia. Advances in battlefield analgesia, pioneered initially by Tactical Combat Casualty Care (TCCC), and the Army's 75th Ranger Regiment, have now been incorporated into the Triple-Option Analgesia approach. This novel strategy has gained wide acceptance in the US military. It calls for battlefield analgesia to be achieved using 1 or more of 3 options depending on the casualty's status: 1) the meloxicam and acetaminophen in the combat wound medication pack (CWMP) for casualties with relatively minor pain that are still able to function effectively as combatants if their sensorium is not altered by analgesic medications; 2) oral transmucosal fentanyl citrate (OTFC) for casualties who have moderate to severe pain, but who are not in hemorrhagic shock or respiratory distress, and are not at significant risk for developing either condition; or 3) ketamine for casualties who have moderate to severe pain, but who are in hemorrhagic shock or respiratory distress or are at significant risk for developing either condition. Ketamine may also be used to increase analgesic effect for casualties who have previously been given opioid medication. The present paper outlines the evolution and evidence base for battlefield analgesia as currently recommended by TCCC. It is not intended to be a comprehensive review of all prehospital analgesic options.

Keywords: OTFC; TCCC; Triple-Option Analgesia; acetaminophen; fentanyl; ketamine; meloxicam; pain.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Analgesia / statistics & numerical data*
  • Analgesics / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Military Medicine / methods*
  • Pain Management / statistics & numerical data*
  • Warfare
  • Wilderness Medicine / methods*


  • Analgesics