Intramuscular ketorolac vs oral ibuprofen in emergency department patients with acute pain

Acad Emerg Med. 1998 Feb;5(2):118-22. doi: 10.1111/j.1553-2712.1998.tb02595.x.


Objective: To determine whether i.m. ketorolac is superior to oral ibuprofen in patients presenting to an ED in moderate to severe pain.

Methods: This prospective, randomized, double-blind study involved a convenience sample of 119 patients aged > or = 18 years who presented to an urban teaching hospital ED with a self-assessed pain intensity score of 5, 6, 7, or 8 (on a numerical rating scale of 0-10). Patients were randomized to receive either 60 mg of i.m. ketorolac and a placebo capsule or 800 mg of oral ibuprofen and a saline injection. Pain scores were measured at 0, 15, 30, 45, 60, 90, and 120 minutes after dosing. Supplemental analgesics were allowed in accordance with standard medical practice.

Results: There were 18 patients excluded who did not remain in the ED for the full 2-hour study period. Of those completing the trial, 53 patients received ketorolac and 48 patients received ibuprofen. There were no significant differences in pain scores between ketorolac and ibuprofen at any time during the study. However, there was a statistically significant decrease in pain over time in both treatment groups. Yet, 40% of the patients continued to report pain intensity scores of 5-8 at 2 hours after treatment.

Conclusions: I.m. ketorolac and oral ibuprofen provide comparable levels of analgesia in ED patients presenting with moderate to severe pain. Unfortunately, 40% of all the patients had inadequate pain relief (pain score > or = 5) from either ketorolac or ibuprofen.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Analgesics, Non-Narcotic / therapeutic use*
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / therapeutic use*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Ibuprofen / therapeutic use*
  • Male
  • Pain / drug therapy*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Analgesics, Non-Narcotic
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal
  • Ibuprofen