Background: Soft tissue injuries commonly present to the emergency department (ED), often with acute pain. They cause significant suffering and morbidity if not adequately treated. Paracetamol and ibuprofen are commonly used analgesics, but it remains unknown if either one or the combination of both is superior for pain control.
Objectives: To investigate the analgesic effect of paracetamol, ibuprofen and the combination of both in the treatment of soft tissue injury in an ED, and the side effect profile of these drugs.
Methods: Double-blind, double dummy, placebo-controlled randomised controlled trial. 782 adult patients presenting with soft tissue injury without obvious fractures attending the ED of a university hospital in the New Territories of Hong Kong were recruited. Patients were randomised using a random number table into three parallel arms of paracetamol only, ibuprofen only and a combination of paracetamol and ibuprofen in a 1:1:1 ratio. The primary outcome measure was pain score at rest and on activity in the first 2 hours and first 3 days. Data was analysed on an intention to treat basis.
Results: There was no statistically significant difference in pain score in the initial two hours between the three groups, and no clinically significant difference in pain score in the first three days.
Conclusion: There was no difference in analgesic effects or side effects observed using oral paracetamol, ibuprofen or a combination of both in patients with mild to moderate pain after soft tissue injuries attending the ED.
Trial registration: The study is registered with ClinicalTrials.gov (no. NCT00528658).