Study objective: To investigate the frequency of emergency department analgesic use in children with presumably painful fractures who are also at risk for associated multiple injuries and to determine whether there are specific factors that distinguish those who are prescribed analgesics from those who are not.
Design: Descriptive, retrospective review of a computerized trauma registry.
Setting: Regional pediatric ED and trauma center.
Participants: Four hundred thirty-three injured children met trauma team activation criteria from January 1, 1991 through June 30, 1992. Of these 433, we selected the 121 children who had fractures of the pelvis, long bones, ankle, wrist, or clavicle. Of these 121, we excluded the 22 children who underwent endotracheal intubation. Trauma registry data from the prehospital and ED phases of care from the remaining 99 children were reviewed for this study.
Main results: Of the study group, 53% (52 of 99) received analgesics, all narcotics. Excluding the 46 children with multi-system injuries, only 62% (33 of 53) received analgesics. Patients in both the analgesic (52) and no-analgesic groups (47) were mildly to moderately injured based on initial ED trauma scores and vital signs. No statistical or clinical significant differences were found between the analgesic group and the no-analgesic group when comparing age, sex, race, mechanism of injury, vehicle speed, height of fall, time elapsed from injury until arrival at the ED, transport method, prehospital analgesic use, mortality, Injury Severity Score, and initial ED vital signs, Glasgow Coma Scale, Trauma Score, and Pediatric Trauma Score. Fifty-nine percent (ten of 17) of the children with associated internal injuries limited to the chest or abdomen received analgesics compared with 62% (33 of 53) in those with isolated fracture (P = .8). Those with an associated head injury (31%, nine of 29) received analgesics less frequently than those with isolated fracture (62%, 33 of 53) (P = .01).
Conclusion: Our results suggest that ED analgesic use was low in these mildly to moderately injured children with presumably painful fractures who are also at risk for associated multiple injuries. Head injury was associated with especially low analgesic use. We did not identify other specific factors that distinguished those who received analgesics from those who did not. Further investigation is required to determine if after the initial evaluation, a larger proportion of mildly to moderately injured trauma victims with fractures are appropriate candidates for ED analgesic use.