The Treatment of Acute Pain in the Emergency Department: A White Paper Position Statement Prepared for the American Academy of Emergency Medicine

J Emerg Med. 2018 May;54(5):731-736. doi: 10.1016/j.jemermed.2018.01.020. Epub 2018 Mar 6.


Background: Pain is one of the most common reasons patients present to the emergency department (ED). Emergency physicians should be aware of the numerous opioid and nonopioid alternatives available for the treatment of pain.

Objectives: To provide expert consensus guidelines for the safe and effective treatment of acute pain in the ED.

Methods: Multiple independent literature searches using PubMed were performed regarding treatment of acute pain. A multidisciplinary panel of experts in Pharmacology and Emergency Medicine reviewed and discussed the literature to develop consensus guidelines.

Recommendations: The guidelines provide resources for the safe use of opioids in the ED as well as pharmacological and nonpharmacological alternatives to opioid analgesia. Care should be tailored to the patient based on their specific acute painful condition and underlying risk factors and comorbidities.

Conclusions: Analgesia in the ED should be provided in the most safe and judicious manner, with the goals of relieving acute pain while decreasing the risk of complications and opioid dependence.

Keywords: analgesia; emergency; emergency care; opioids; pain; pain control.

MeSH terms

  • Acute Pain / drug therapy*
  • Analgesics / therapeutic use
  • Analgesics, Opioid / adverse effects
  • Analgesics, Opioid / therapeutic use
  • Decision Making
  • Emergency Medicine / methods*
  • Emergency Medicine / standards
  • Emergency Medicine / trends
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / organization & administration
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / trends
  • Epidemics
  • Guidelines as Topic / standards
  • Humans
  • Pain Management / methods*
  • Pain Management / trends
  • Pain Measurement / methods
  • Risk Factors


  • Analgesics
  • Analgesics, Opioid