Background: Suitable analgesic drugs and techniques are needed for the acute care of the approximately 18 200-18 400 seriously injured patients in Germany each year.
Methods: This systematic review and meta-analysis of analgesia in trauma patients was carried out on the basis of randomized, controlled trials and observational studies. A systematic search of the literature over the 10-year period ending in February 2016 was carried out in the PubMed, Google Scholar, and Springer Link Library databases. Some of the considered trials and studies were included in a meta-analysis. Mean differences (MD) of pain reduction or pain outcome as measured on the Numeric Rating Scale were taken as a summarizing measure of treatment efficacy.
Results: Out of 685 studies, 41 studies were considered and 10 studies were included in the meta-analysis. Among the drugs and drug combinations studied, none was clearly superior to another with respect to pain relief. Neither fentanyl versus morphine (MD -0.10 with a 95% confidence interval of [-0.58; 0.39], p = 0.70) nor ketamine versus morphine (MD -1.27 [-3.71; 1.16], p = 0.31), or the combination of ketamine and morphine versus morphine alone (MD -1.23 [-2.29; -0.18], p = 0.02) showed clear superiority regarding analgesia.
Conclusion: Ketamine, fentanyl, and morphine are suitable for analgesia in spontaneously breathing trauma patients. Fentanyl and ketamine have a rapid onset of action and a strong analgesic effect. Our quantitative meta-analysis revealed no evidence for the superiority of any of the three substances over the others. Suitable monitoring equipment, and expertise in emergency procedures are prerequisites for safe and effective analgesia by healthcare professionals..