Decreased Risk of Delirium With Use of Regional Analgesia in Geriatric Trauma Patients With Multiple Rib Fractures

Ann Surg. 2018 Sep;268(3):534-540. doi: 10.1097/SLA.0000000000002929.


Objective: The aim of this study was to examine the risk of delirium in geriatric trauma patients with rib fractures treated with systemic opioids compared with those treated with regional analgesia (RA).

Summary of background data: Delirium is a modifiable complication associated with increased morbidity and mortality. RA may reduce the need for opioid medications, which are associated with delirium in older adults.

Methods: Cohort study of patients ≥65 years admitted to a regional trauma center from 2011 to 2016. Inclusion factors were ≥ 3 rib fractures, blunt trauma mechanism, and admission to intensive care unit (ICU). Exclusion criteria included head AIS ≥3, spine AIS ≥3, dementia, and death within 24 hours. The primary outcome was delirium positive ICU days, defined using the CAM-ICU assessment. Delirium incident rate ratios (IRRs) and 95% confidence intervals (95% CIs) were estimated using generalized linear mixed models with Poisson distribution and robust standard errors.

Results: Of the 144 patients included in the study, 27 (19%) received Acute Pain Service consultation and RA and 117 (81%) received opioid-based systemic analgesia. Patients with RA had more severe chest injury than those without. The risk of delirium decreased by 24% per day per patient with use of RA (IRR 0.76, 95% CI 0.61 to 0.96). Individual opioid use, as measured in daily morphine equivalents (MEDs), was significantly reduced after initiation of RA (mean difference -7.62, 95% CI -14.4 to -0.81).

Conclusion: Although use of RA techniques in geriatric trauma patients with multiple rib fractures was associated with higher MED, opioid use decreased after RA initiation and Acute Pain Service consultation, and the risk of delirium was lower.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Analgesics, Opioid / administration & dosage*
  • Anesthesia, Conduction / methods*
  • Delirium / epidemiology*
  • Delirium / prevention & control*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Male
  • Multiple Trauma
  • Pain Management / methods*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Rib Fractures / complications*
  • Risk Factors
  • Trauma Centers
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Wounds, Nonpenetrating / complications*


  • Analgesics, Opioid