Injury, Int. J. Care Injured (2008) 39, 578—585

Pain prevalence and pain relief in trauma patients in the Accident & Emergency department                       579

580                                                                                         S.A.A. Berben et al.

acute pa...
Pain prevalence and pain relief in trauma patients in the Accident & Emergency department                                 ...
582                                                                                                         S.A.A. Berben ...
Pain prevalence and pain relief in trauma patients in the Accident & Emergency department                                 ...
584                                                                                            S.A.A. Berben et al.

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Pain prevalence and pain relief in trauma patients in the Accident & Emergency department                                 ...
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Pain in trauma patients in accident and emergency departments


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Research article on the prevalence of pain in trauma patients and effect of pain treatment in ED's in the Netherlands

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Pain in trauma patients in accident and emergency departments

  1. 1. Injury, Int. J. Care Injured (2008) 39, 578—585 Pain prevalence and pain relief in trauma patients in the Accident & Emergency department Sivera A.A. Berben a,*, Tineke H.J.M. Meijs b, Robert T.M. van Dongen c, Arie B. van Vugt d, Lilian C.M. Vloet e, Joke J. Mintjes-de Groot b, Theo van Achterberg f a Accident & Emergency Department, Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, Postal code 363 D10, P.O. Box 9101, 6500 HB Nijmegen, The Netherlands b Critical Care, HAN University, Nijmegen, The Netherlands c Department of Anaesthesiology and Pain Centre, Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, Nijmegen, The Netherlands d Department of Surgery, Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, Nijmegen, The Netherlands e Scientific Office, Canisius Wilhelmina Hospital, Nijmegen, The Netherlands f Centre for Quality of Care Research, Nursing Science Section, Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, Nijmegen, The Netherlands Accepted 3 April 2007 KEYWORDS Summary Wounds and injuries; Trauma; Background: Acute pain in the A&E department (ED) has been described as a problem, Acute pain; however insight into the problem for trauma patients is lacking. Prevalence; Objective: This study describes the prevalence of pain, the pain intensity and the Pain measurement; effect of conventional pain treatment in trauma patients in the ED. Pain management; Methods: In a prospective cohort study of 450 trauma patients, pain was measured on Accident & Emergency admission and at discharge, using standardized and validated pain instruments. department; Results: The prevalence of pain was high, both on admission (91%) and at discharge Emergency Medical (86%). Two thirds of the trauma patients reported moderate or severe pain at Services discharge. Few patients received pharmacological or non-pharmacological pain relieving treatment during their stay in the ED. Pain decreased in 37% of the patients, did not change at all in 46%, or had increased in 17% of the patients at discharge from the ED. The most effective pain treatment given was a combination of injury treatment and supplementary pharmacological interventions, however this treat- ment was given to a small group of patients. * Corresponding author. Tel.: +31 24 3617383. E-mail address: (S.A.A. Berben). 0020–1383/$ — see front matter # 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/j.injury.2007.04.013
  2. 2. Pain prevalence and pain relief in trauma patients in the Accident & Emergency department 579 Conclusions: Acute pain in trauma patients is a significant problem in the ED’s. Pain itself does not seem to be treated systematically and sufficiently, anywhere in the cycle of injury treatment in the ED. # 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. Introduction performed by the staff. Although the prevalence of acute pain is supposed to be a problem in clinical Yearly, one million people in the Netherlands practice, it has never actually been studied in a require medical aid in an Accident & Emergency broad group of trauma patients in the ED. department (ED) due to an injury.9 The average rate of hospital admissions due to injuries (or rather discharges) in the European Union (EU) is about Patients and methods 1500 per 100,000 residents.10 International compar- ison is difficult, because national health care sys- A prospective, observational study was conducted in tems differ and the accessibility of the ED’s varies two ED’s in the Netherlands, in a 3-month period in over countries, and furthermore different defini- 2004. The regional Committee on Research Involving tions of trauma are used in international databases. Human Subjects approved of the study and patients In our study we defined trauma as: damage inflicted were included after informed consent. on the body as the direct or indirect result of an external force, with or without disruption of struc- Sample tural continuity (definition ’wounds and injuries’ thesaurus Medline 2006). Trauma in this definition Data collection took place in a level one trauma concerns patients involved in accidents in and centre; the Radboud University Nijmegen Medical around the house, sports- or work related traumas, Centre, further referred to as ‘trauma centre’, and road traffic accidents, violence related injuries, a nearby regional teaching hospital; the Canisius assaults, or actions of self-mutilation. Wilhelmina Hospital, further referred to as ‘teach- Acute pain is closely related to trauma and is ing hospital’. Both hospitals have a continuously induced by the injury of body tissues and the activa- 24 h, accessible ED for 456,000 people in the direct tion of nociceptors at the site of tissue damage.19 region of Nijmegen and annually treat 18,000 Pain, as defined by the International Association for (trauma centre) and 24,000 (teaching hospital) the Study of Pain,21 interferes with recovery and patients in the ED, which is a middle range number cure and likewise it can affect all aspects of a of ED admissions compared to other hospitals in the patient’s life. Although pain is generally known to Netherlands (Dutch range of admission rates at the be the main complaint of patients in the ED, we ED’s is 10,000—50,000 per year). Neither of the ED’s found only four studies describing the prevalence of in the study used a standardized pain protocol for pain in the ED.8,17,28,31 These studies, focused on trauma patients at the time of measurement. heterogeneous patient groups, reported a pain pre- The sample consisted of all the trauma patients valence in the ED ranging from 52 to 79%, however, a admitted to the ED’s during several 24 h periods. detailed insight into the pain in trauma patients Twenty-eight measurement days (14 for each cen- based on these data was not possible. tre) were selected on the basis of availability of the Several studies5,6,18,25,30,35 have described the research team. Trauma patients were followed from administration of analgesics in the ED and have admission to discharge from the ED. Each weekday concluded that there is an undertreatment of acute was represented twice in the sample (i.e. two Fri- pain in the ED, even though it is known that acute days, two Saturdays, . . .), so that work related or pain can often be simply alleviated and sports related accidents were normally repre- reduced.27,36 However, several barriers in effective sented. There were no measurements on national pain management exist, such as ethnicity,32 anxi- or school holidays. ety,16 reluctance to report pain from the patients’ perspective14,22 and insufficient knowledge of pro- Instruments fessionals.7,24,29 The aim of the article is to describe the preva- Patients were interviewed using validated pain lence, intensity, location, and course of pain in instruments. We used the 11-point Numeric Rating trauma patients. Additionally, we describe and clas- Scale (NRS), which proved to be a valid and reliable sify the effect of conventional pain treatment policy one-dimensional method for self-evaluation of
  3. 3. 580 S.A.A. Berben et al. acute pain intensity in the ED.2,4 Location of pain frequencies, means and standard deviations. In was measured by a modified version of the validated order to find significant and relevant differences Dutch McGill Pain Questionnaire20,33,34. Specific between both ED’s, the data of the trauma centre items on pain management, such as: standardized and teaching hospital were compared. When no pain measurement, patient information on pain significant differences were found, data were management, injury treatment, pharmacological pooled. Relevant subgroup analyses were performed and non pharmacological pain treatment, were using two-tailed Student’s t-test end Chi-Square added to the questionnaire. Face validity on these test; a significance level of 0.05 was used for all items was received by members of the Pain Exper- tests. Additionally, for the benefit of the analysis, tise Centre of the Radboud University Nijmegen we classified the pain intensity into four categories: Medical Centre and the National Nursing Pain Net- no pain (0 on the NRS), mild pain (1—3 on the NRS), work Group in the Netherlands. Data on pharmaco- moderate pain (4—7 on the NRS) and severe pain logical treatment and medical diagnosis were (8—10 on the NRS). derived from patient records and the medical regis- tration. Results Study procedure In total 760 trauma patients were seen, and even- Trauma patients were selected on the basis of in- tually 450 patients were included in the study. 300 and exclusion criteria. Inclusion criteria were: (1) Patients were not included for the following rea- injuries due to a trauma, (2) fluency in speaking sons: missed by the research team (n = 8), excluded Dutch, (3) age ! 16 years, (4) stabilized condition on the basis of exclusion criteria (n = 252), no regarding Airway, Breathing and Circulation1 and (5) trauma diagnosis confirmed (n = 16), and no Glasgow Coma Scale score >13. Only patients with informed consent (n = 34). The 252 excluded at least one trauma diagnosis (i.e. International patients were: children under 16 years (n = 196); Classification of Diseases version 9, numeric code: cognitively impaired or confused elderly (n = 19); 800 up to inclusive 999) were eventually accepted in non fluent in Dutch (n = 15); suicidal (n = 8); intu- the study. The exclusion criteria were: (1) intuba- bated or had a GCS < 14 (n = 7); excluded for ethical tion, (2) continuous need for intensive medical care, reasons (abuse or sexual course of trauma) (n = 4), (3) injuries due to attempted suicide, (4) documen- non cooperative, aggressive patients (n = 3). ted cognitive disability, (5) uncooperative patients There were no significant differences between the who sighted signs of verbal or physical aggression or trauma centre or the teaching hospital regarding age (6) no informed consent. or gender of the patients (Table 1). Alert poly trauma Patients were interviewed on admission (T1) and patients with an ISS >15 were only seen in the trauma at discharge (T2). When immediately initial treat- centre. Furthermore this centre admitted signifi- ment was necessary on admission, the first measure- cantly (x2 = 12.0, d.f. = 1, p < 0.01) more patients ment took place as soon as the treatment enabled it. with more than one trauma diagnosed. Patients suf- The research team consisted of two primary inves- fered mostly from fractures (28%), contusions (22%), tigators (SB, TM), three researchers and five bachelor open wounds (18%) and sprains/strains (15%). The student nurses in their last year of training. The mean length of stay was 86 min in both ED’s. research team was especially trained to interview Trauma patients reported a high prevalence of the patients in the ED. The training consisted of role- pain on admission (T1 = 91%) and discharge plays with emotions or circumstances directly related (T2 = 86%). There were no differences between the to trauma (i.e. distress, anxiety, anger), which might two centres. The mean pain intensity for both ED’s influence valid and reliable answers from the patient was 5.9 (S.D. = 2.2) at T1, and 5.0 (S.D. = 2.7) at T2. A to the questionnaire. Further attention was paid to subgroup of five alert, poly trauma patients, reported close guidance of the patients through different a high mean pain score of 8.6 (S.D. = 1.3, median = 8, stages of their treatment in the ED. During days of range 7—10) at T1. Their mean pain score changed to the study the team worked according to a schedule in 7.4 (S.D. = 2.4, median = 6, range 5—10) at T2. 9-h shifts, 24 h a day, in order not to miss any of the Pain was mostly located in the extremities (91%). trauma patients admitted to the ED. We found a statistically significant difference (x2 = 9.16, d.f. = 1, p < 0.01) between the ED’s, Data analysis regarding pain located in more than one body part (24% in the trauma centre and 19% in the teaching Data were statistically analyzed using SPSS for hospital). Nineteen percent of all the patients Windows version 12.1, and were described by reported pain in the head or neck. Another 8%
  4. 4. Pain prevalence and pain relief in trauma patients in the Accident & Emergency department 581 Table 1 Variables of the population Total Trauma Teaching Difference n = 450 centre hospital between n = 188 n = 262 groups Demographic variables Age: mean (S.D.) in years 39 (18) 38 (18) 40 (18) NS Gender: number (percentage) Male 260 (58%) 105 (56%) 155 (59%) NS Length of stay in the ED Stay in the ED: mean (S.D.) in minutes 86 (55) 80 (59) 90 (52) NS Poly trauma patients Alert with an ISS > 15: number (percentage) 5 (1%) 5 (3%) — NA Trauma diagnosis Patient level Two or more trauma diagnosis: number (percentage) 51 (11%) 32 (17%) 19 (7%) p < 0.01 Population level Trauma diagnoses in the population: number (percentages) 1. Fractures (ICD code 800—829) 143 (28%) 66 77 NS 2. Dislocations/subluxations (ICD code 830—839) 21 (4%) 6 15 NS 3. Sprains/strains (ICD code 840—848) 76 (15%) 29 47 NS 4. Contusions (ICD code 920—929) 113 (22%) 56 57 NS 5. Wounds (ICD code 870—897) 92 (18%) 34 58 NS 6. Nerve injuries (ICD code 950-957) 9 (1%) 7 2 NA 7. Burns (ICD code 940—949) 8 (1%) 6 2 NA 8. Superficial injuries (ICD code 910—919) 27 (5%) 19 (4%) 8 (2%) p < 0.01 9. Commotion cerebra + intracranial injury 8 (1%) 5 3 NA (ICD code 850—854) 10. Miscellaneous (ICD code 860—869; 900-909; 22 (2%) 11 11 NA 930—939; 958—999) Total * 519 239 280 NS: not statistically significant, NA: not applicable; *sum of trauma diagnosis is larger than 450, some patients have more than one trauma diagnosed. indicated abdominal pain or pain in the pelvis and 6% this treatment consisted of local anaesthesia of the patients reported thoracal pain. Pain in the (n = 33), for suturing or repositioning of fractures. pelvic and abdominal region was more common in The other 60% (n = 51) received systemic pain the trauma centre than in the teaching hospital medication. The effect of pharmacological pain (x2 = 8.05, d.f. = 1, p < 0.01). treatment was evaluated in 42% of cases: 38% of The conventional pain treatment in the ED’s did patients reported that the staff did not evaluate not consist of a standardized, validated pain mea- the effect of the pharmacological treatment, and surements. At T2 49% of the trauma patients for the other 20% the time between administration reported information on pain management. Sixty and interview was too short for evaluation. Physi- three percent of the patients received injury treat- cians and nurses equally distributed systemic med- ment with possible pain reducing effects (i.e. plas- ication, while physicians gave mostly local ter, (compression) bandage, fixation, splints, anaesthesia. removal of neck collar, etc.). Two thirds of this The course of pain was evaluated by the change in group reported an increase in pain during treat- pain score between T1 and T2 and we found no ment. A few non-pharmacological pain interven- differences for the two ED’s (Graph 1). In Graph tions were found such as cooling (by ice packs or 1, the frequency of the pain categories: no pain, shower) (n = 7), repositioning of body posture mild pain, moderate pain and severe pain at T1 is (n = 20) and elevation of extremities using a shown in the vertical columns for the reported pain stretcher, footstool or otherwise (n = 91). categories at T2. Two thirds of the patients reported Some patients (19%, n = 83) received pharmaco- moderate (n = 218, 50%) or severe (n = 73, 17%) pain logical pain treatment (Table 2). Forty percent of at T2. The graph demonstrates that the pain level at
  5. 5. 582 S.A.A. Berben et al. Table 2 Pharmacological pain treatment Total Trauma Teaching Difference n = 435 centre hospital between n = 181 n = 254 groups Pharmacological pain treatment Total number of patients (percentage) * 83 (19%) 42 (23%) 41 (16%) NS Systemic medication, number of patients (1) NSAID’s * 8 4 4 NA (2) Paracetamol * 19 12 7 p < 0.05 (3) Opioids * 19 14 5 p < 0.05 (4) Benzodiazepine * 8 1 7 NA Systemic medication (1—4) * 51 28 23 p < 0.05 Local anaesthesia Number of patients * 33 14 19 NS Administration of medication (n = 80) Number of patients (percentage) Physician 36 (45%) 15 21 NS Nurse 40 (50%) 20 20 NS Physician and nurse 4 (5%) 4 0 NA * Some patients received pharmacological pain treatment out of more than one group, therefore it is not applicable to sum up between groups. NS: not statistically significant, NA: not applicable. T2, within the pain categories, did not greatly differ The effect of the conventional pain treatment was from the pain level reported at T1. At discharge, we evaluated for four treatment groups (i.e. Group 1: no found the following shifts in pain level: nearly half of injury treatment or pharmacological pain treatment, all the trauma patients (n = 200, 46%) reported no Group 2: only injury treatment, Group 3: only phar- change in pain. A third (n = 162, 37%) perceived a macological pain treatment, Group 4: injury treat- decrease of pain during stay in the ED, and a sixth of ment combined with pharmacological pain the patients (n = 73, 17%) reported an increase in treatment). The effect of pain treatment is pain at T2. expressed by a mean pain reduction at T2, charged by the pain score on T2 deducted from the pain score on T1 (Graph 2). Patients of Group 3 indicated sta- tistically significant more mean pain reduction (mean À1.5) with supplementary pharmacological pain treatment compared to patients of Group 1 (mean À0.2). Patients of Group 4 described a statistically significant greater pain reduction (mean À2.0) with supplementary pharmacological pain treatment compared to patients of Group 2 (mean À0.7). The relation between the nature of injury and the intensity of pain (Table 3) was analyzed for three sets of common trauma diagnoses (n = 408), (i.e. Group A: fractures and dislocations/subluxations; Group B: sprains/strains and contusions; Group C: wounds and superficial injuries). Some patients had more than one injury diagnosed, therefore we com- posed and compared dichotomous groups. For instance, Group A (n = 140) consisted of patients with fractures and/or dislocations/subluxations at T1, and the comparison group consisted of patients Graph 1 Course of pain at discharge from the emer- with other injuries (n = 268) at T1 (Group B and C). gency department. *The total number of patients that We found that Group A and B showed statistically reported pain intensity in different categories on admis- significant higher mean pain scores as the compar- sion is not graphically shown. ison groups at T1. Group B reported also a significant
  6. 6. Pain prevalence and pain relief in trauma patients in the Accident & Emergency department 583 Discussion and conclusion The main finding of this study is that pain in trauma patients is a significant problem in ED’s. Pain itself does not seem to be treated sufficiently since most patients reported both moderate or severe pain, on admission and at discharge. Nearly half of the patients described no change in pain, and even a sixth of the patients reported an increase in pain during treatment in the ED. The conventional treat- ment policy in the ED consisted mainly of purely ‘anatomical’ injury treatment. There seemed to be very little pharmacological or non-pharmacological pain treatment. The most effective pain reduction was a result of injury treatment and supplementary pharmacological pain treatment. However, this combined treatment was given to only a small group of trauma patients. Previous studies8,17,28,31 on pain prevalence in Graph 2 Pain reducing effect of conventional pain treat- the ED partially support our findings, although com- ment at T2. Group 1: no injury treatment or pharmaco- parability is limited due to differences in the studied logical pain treatment. Group 2: only injury treatment. populations. The retrospective document study of Group 3: only pharmacological pain treatment. Group 4: Cordell et al.8 gave insight on the prevalence of pain injury treatment combined with pharmacological pain in 1665 ED patients charts. Emergency staff treatment. described pain for 61% of the study population, whereas only 19% of their population were trauma patients. Tanabe and Buschmann28 prospectively higher ( p < 0.01) mean pain score at T2. Group C studied the pain prevalence in 203 adult ED patients reported significantly lower ( p < 0.01) mean pain and found a pain prevalence of 78%. Tcherny-Lesse- intensities than patients with other injuries, both at not et al.31 studied a consecutive sample of 726 ED T1 and T2. patients, of which 78% reported pain on admission. Table 3 Pain intensity for three groups of common trauma diagnosis Group A: Patients with Comparison group: Difference between fractures and/or Patients with other injuries groups dislocations/subluxations N Mean (S.D.) N Mean (S.D.) T1 140 6.3 (2.0) 268 5.8 (2.1) p < 0.05 2-tailed T2 136 5.0 (2.8) 258 5.0 (2.7) NS Group B: Patients with Comparison group: Difference between sprains/strains and/or Patients with other injuries groups contusions N Mean (S.D.) N Mean (S.D.) T1 175 6.2 (1.9) 233 5.8 (2.2) p < 0.05 2-tailed T2 174 6.0 (2.1) 225 4.3 (2.9) p < 0.01 2-tailed Group C: Patients with Comparison group: Difference between wounds and/or superficial Patients with other injuries groups injuries N Mean (S.D.) N Mean (S.D.) T1 93 5.0 (2.4) 315 6.2 (2.0) p < 0.01 2-tailed T2 92 3.7 (3.0) 302 5.5 (2.4) p < 0.01 2-tailed T1: on admission, T2: at discharge, NS: not statistically significant.
  7. 7. 584 S.A.A. Berben et al. Data on trauma patients could not be derived from effect of pain treatment in our study. In his valida- these studies. Johnston et al.17 studied 286 adult tion study, Farrar found the best cut-off point on the non critical emergency patients, of which one group NRS scale, that is best associated with clinically concerned patients with musculoskeletal problems. important difference, to be: either an absolute This group reported comparable results to our study, difference of 2 points in pain intensity, or a relative namely a mean pain score of 5.8 on admission and difference of 33% in pain intensity. We strongly 4.6 at discharge. The population in our study is recommend physicians in the ED to use the simple comparable to other ED’s populations in the Nether- and validated cut-off points, defined by Farrar lands. et al., to evaluate and determine a clinically, rele- A limitation of our study is the exclusion of vant changes in pain level. children under the age of 16 and the exclusion of Possible barriers in current pain management in poly trauma patients who were unable to answer the the ED could be workload, attitude of staff, knowl- pain questionnaire. We choose not to examine the edge deficits and misconceptions on the need of interobserver reliability during the actual study, in effective pain management. Furthermore, we found order to minimize possible disturbance of the emer- it remarkable that simple, non invasive and non gency treatment, however this could be seen as a pharmalogical pain treatments, such as ice packing limitation. We tried to maximize the accuracy and and elevating body parts, were hardly seen, minimize the bias of measurements, by the use of although they are effective in pain relief. The mes- validated instruments and an intensive training in sage from our findings is clear: acute pain in trauma preparation of the study. Furthermore, we tested patients in the ED has to be addressed systemati- the questionnaire in a small pilot study. cally by using standardized and validated pain We found different pain scores for three groups of instruments (for instance the NRS) and should be common trauma diagnoses. Patients with sprains/ treated pharmacologically and non-pharmacologi- strains and contusions reported a statistically sig- cally as early as possible. nificant higher pain level at discharge than patients with other injuries (Table 3). A possible explanation for this difference could be the painful diagnostic Acknowledgments procedures performed in the ED, specifically for this group. In the past, pain was regarded as an impor- We want to thank the bachelor nursing students, the tant clinical sign, which should not be blunted in researchers, the staff and mostly the trauma order not to mask the clinical diagnosis. We spec- patients of both ED’s. ulate that this attitude has gradually changed but still could be an important factor in the underas- sessment and undertreatment of pain. Conflict of interest As we know from the literature, physicians and nurses give statistically lower pain reports than All authors state that there are no conflicts of patients themselves15,23 and also appropriate pain interest. They have no financial and personal rela- assessment is a critical issue26. At the same time a tionships with other people, or organisations, that recent study of Bijur et al.3 showed, that emergency could inappropriately influence (bias) their work, all physicians and nurses do not primarily base their within 3 years of the beginning the work submitted. decision about pain management on the pain inten- sity reported by patients, as was recommended by expert panels. Therefore, we speculate that in our References study the pain management was merely guided by the staff’s own estimation of pain in trauma 1. American College of Surgeons Committee on Trauma Initial patients. This could have influenced the severe Assessment and Management. Advanced Trauma Life Support underestimation and undertreatment we observed for Doctors, ATLS, Instructor Course Manual. 6th Ed. Chicago: in our study. The fact that the trauma centre dis- American College of Surgeons; 1997, p. 21—74. 2. Berthier F, Potel G, Leconte PTM, et al. Comparative study of tributed significantly more opioids and paracetamol methods of measuring acute pain intensity in an ED. Am J could possibly be explained by the larger amount of Emerg Med 1998;16(2):132—6. patients with multiple injuries they treat compared 3. Bijur PE, Berard A, Esses D, et al. Lack of Influence of patient ´ to the teaching hospital. self-report of pain intensity on administration of opioids for In the literature11—13 there is discussion as to suspected long-bone fractures. J Pain 2006;7(6):438—44. 4. Bijur PE, Latimer CT, Gallagher EJ. Validation of a verbally whether the observed changes in pain level are of administered numerical rating scale of acute pain for use in clinical relevance to the patient. We choose to the Emergency Department. Acad Emerg Med 2003;10(4): follow the results of Farrar et al.11 to judge the 390—2.
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