Kristian Dahl Friesgaard

Acute pain in the prehospital setting: a register-based study of 41.241 patients

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BACKGROUND: Acute pain is a frequent symptom, but little is known about the frequency and causes of acute pain in the prehospital population. The objectives of this study were to investigate the frequency of moderate to severe pain among prehospital patients and the underlying causes according to primary hospital diagnose codes.

METHODS: This was a register-based study on 41.241 patients transported by ambulance. Information on moderate to severe pain [Numeric Rating Scale (NRS, 0-10) > 3 or moderate pain or higher on 4-point likert scale] was extracted from a national electronic prehospital patient record. Patient information was merged with primary hospital diagnose codes based on the 10th version of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10) to investigate underlying causes of pain.

RESULTS: 11.430 patients (27.7%) reported moderate to severe pain during ambulance transport. As a measure of opioid demanding acute pain, 3.275 of 41.241 patients (7.9%) were treated with intravenous fentanyl. Underlying causes of pain were heterogenic according to ICD-10 chapters with injuries being the largest group of patients with moderate to severe pain (XIX: 42.8% of 8.041 patients), followed by non-specific diagnoses (XVIII: 28.5% of 7.101 patients and XXI: 31.6% of 5.148 patients), diseases of the circulatory system (IX: 22.1% of 4.812 patients) and other (20.3% of 16.139 miscellaneous patients).

DISCUSSION: Due to the high frequency of moderate to severe pain affecting a wide range of patients, more attention on acute pain is necessary. Whether ambulance personnel have sufficient options for treating various pain conditions might be a subject of future evaluation. Non-specific diagnoses accounted for surprisingly many patients with moderate to severe pain, of which many were treated with intravenous fentanyl. This may be substance of further investigation.

CONCLUSIONS: Moderate to severe pain is a highly frequent and probably underestimated symptom among patients transported by ambulance. Underlying causes of pain are heterogenic as described by primary hospital diagnose codes. More focus on the treatment of acute pain is needed.

Original languageEnglish
Article number53
JournalScandinavian Journal of Trauma, Resuscitation and Emergency Medicine
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jul 2018

    Research areas

  • Acute pain, Causes of acute pain, Prehospital

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