With regionalized trauma care, medical transport times can be prolonged, requiring paramedics to manage patient care and symptoms. Our objective was to evaluate pain management during air transport of trauma patients.
We conducted a 12-month review of electronic paramedic records from a provincial critical care transport agency. Patients were included if they were ≥18 years old and underwent air transport to a trauma centre, and excluded if they were Glasgow Coma Scale score <14, intubated, or accompanied by a physician or nurse. Demographics, injury description, and transportation parameters were recorded. Outcomes included pain assessment via 11-point numerical rating scale, patterns of analgesia administration, and analgesia-related adverse events. Results were reported as mean ± standard deviation, [range], (percentage).
We included 372 patients: 47.0 years old; 262 males; 361 blunt injuries. Transport duration was 82.4 ± 46.3 minutes. In 232 (62.4%) patients who received analgesia, baseline numerical rating scale was 5.9 ± 2.5. Fentanyl was most commonly administered at 44.3 [25–60] mcg. Numerical rating scale after first analgesia dose decreased by 1.1 [-2–7]. Thereafter, 171 (73.7%) patients received 2.4 [1-18] additional doses. While 44 (23.4%) patients had no change in numerical rating scale after first analgesia dose, subsequent doses resulted in no change in numerical rating scale in over 65% of patients. There were 43 adverse events recorded, with nausea the most commonly reported (39.5%).
Initial and subsequent dose(s) of analgesic had minimal effect on pain as assessed via numerical rating scale, likely due in part to inadequate dosing. Future research is required to determine and address the barriers to proper analgesia.