Objective: To review the 5.5-year safety record of a protocol guiding fentanyl administration to pediatric trauma patients undergoing aeromedical transport.
Methods: Retrospective review of an urban aeromedical program's trauma scene responses from October 1991 to March 1997 identified the study population as all pediatric patients (age <15 years) receiving fentanyl for analgesia during air transport. Patients receiving fentanyl concurrently with other agents, eg, paralytics, were not studied. The air transport team consisted of a flight nurse and flight paramedic who provided protocol-driven patient care with off-line medical control. Study patients' flight records were reviewed to determine vital signs (systolic blood pressure [SBP], heart rate [HR], and oxygen saturation [SAT]) before and after fentanyl administration. Postfentanyl vital signs were reviewed for evidence of hemodynamic or ventilatory compromise. Pre- and postfentanyl vital signs were compared with the paired t test (P < 0.05). Flight records were also analyzed for narrative information, eg, naloxone administration and assisted ventilation, indicative of fentanyl side effects.
Results: Fentanyl (0.33-5.0 microg/kg) was administered 211 times to 131 patients who had a median age of 6.2 years (0.1-14 years), median Glasgow coma score (GCS) of 9 (3-15), and a mean pediatric trauma score of 8.3+/-2.4. Seventy-nine (60.3%) patients were intubated; these patients received 139 (65.9 %) of the 211 total fentanyl doses. No adverse effects from fentanyl were noted in flight record narratives. The median interval between fentanyl administration and postfentanyl vital sign assessment was 9.5 minutes (1-35 minutes). Median postfentanyl changes in SBP and HR were -4.7 and -2.9%, respectively. No patient became hypotensive after fentanyl administration. In nonintubated patients, mean postfentanyl SAT (99.2+/-1.3%) was not significantly different (P = 0.70) from prefentanyl SAT (99.1+/-1.3%), and no patient was noted to have clinically significant SAT decrement after fentanyl.
Conclusion: Retrospective review of more than five years of prehospital fentanyl administration revealed no untoward events. Although prospective definitive demonstration of fentanyl's field use is pending, it is reasonable to continue discretionary fentanyl administration to injured pediatric children in pain.