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Open Access A service evaluation of paediatric pain management in an English ambulance service

Introduction: Evidence from the past 20 years has highlighted that acute pain is not managed well in the emergency setting, in particular with children. Inadequate management of pain can result in long-term changes in both physical and mental health. This service evaluation aimed to determine how paediatric pain is assessed and managed by ambulance clinicians in a large region in England.

Methods: This retrospective service evaluation analysed electronic patient record (ePR) data routinely collected between September and December 2018. All paediatric patients (< 18 years of age) with pain documented narratively, or a pain score of ≥ 1/10, were included. The primary outcome measure was the proportion of patients with severe pain (defined as a pain score of ≥ 7/10) who achieve effective pain management (reduction in pain score of ≥ 2/10).

Results: A total of 2801 paediatric patients who had documented pain were included in the analysis and the median age of patients was three years (interquartile range, 1‐12 years). Most had a medical cause of pain (2387/2801, 85.2%), and analgesia was administered by the ambulance crew in 403/2801 (14.4%) patients. Multiple pain scores were recorded for 667 patients. Effective pain management was achieved in 233/271 (86%) patients in moderate pain and 204/210 (97.1%) patients in severe pain. However, of the 437 children in moderate to severe pain who achieved effective pain management, 381 (87%) received no analgesia.

Conclusion: Children in severe pain received effective pain management, despite the majority not receiving any analgesia. This should be investigated further since non-pharmacological methods of analgesia are unlikely to explain a reduction of this magnitude. Ambulance staff need to be encouraged to record a pain score promptly after arriving on scene and ensure it is repeated. Pain score should be documented as part of the physiological observations and not in the free text of ePRs to ensure that it is identified during audits.

Keywords: analgesia; paediatric; pain

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust

Publication date: September 1, 2019

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