Assessment of Pain Management During Interfacility Air Medical Transport of Intubated Patients
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OBJECTIVE: The management of pain is an important component of care in the prehospital and transport setting. However, recent evidence suggests that pain control is infrequently achieved in these settings. The objective of the current study was to determine the proportion and frequency of opioid analgesia provided to intubated patients during interfacility transport by an air medical transport system. METHODS: This was a health records review examining electronic records of intubated patients transported by Ornge from July 2015 to November 2015. Cases were identified using Ornge database, and intubated patients were selected based on the inclusion criteria. A standardized data extraction form was piloted and used by a single trained data extractor. The primary outcome was whether analgesia was provided. Secondary outcomes included the frequency of administration and dose adequacy of an opioid analgesia; the analgesic used; adverse events; and the impact of age, sex, past medical history of chronic pain, or reason for transfer on pain management. RESULTS: Of the 500 potential patient transports, 448 met our inclusion criteria. Among the 448 patients, 295 (65.8%) were men, 327 (73.0%) received analgesia, and 211 (64.3%) received more than 1 dose during transport (median frequency of 2 doses, interquartile range = 1 to 3). The average transport time was 135 minutes, and repeated dosing (> 1 repeat dose) occurred primarily (45.5%) in transports of over 180 minutes. Fentanyl was the most commonly used analgesic (97.9%), and the most common dose was 50 µg (51.8%). Adverse events occurred in 8 patients (2.5%), most commonly new hypotension (mean arterial pressure < 65 mm Hg, n = 5). There was no significant difference in the administration of analgesia based on the patient's age or sex (68.0% of female patients and 75.6% of male patients received analgesia). Interestingly, only 30.8% of patients repatriated to their originating hospital received analgesia compared with 72.3% of patients undergoing their initial transfer to a higher level of care. CONCLUSION: Seventy-three percent of intubated patients transported by Ornge received an opioid analgesic, most commonly fentanyl. We found no clinically relevant difference in the administration of analgesics based on age, sex, past medical history of chronic pain, or reason for transfer other than repatriation to the originating hospital.
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