As-needed opioid dosing for emergency patients with a daily use of opioids

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BACKGROUND: Patients with a daily use of opioids have a higher risk of insufficient pain treatment during hospitalization than other patients. This study aimed to examine whether as-needed opioid doses (PRN) were adequately adjusted when patients were admitted to the emergency department (ED) with pain.

METHODS: Patients, with a daily use of opioids, who received PRN opioid within the first 3 h after admission at the ED at Aarhus University Hospital, Denmark, were prospectively included from February 2021 to June 2021. The primary outcome was the proportion of patients receiving an inadequate initial dose of PRN opioid, here defined as <15% of daily dose of opioids (DDO) based on sparse evidence, but aligning with the prevailing clinical practice. Secondary outcomes included risk of an inadequate PRN dose in relation to DDO (patients were dichotomized into two groups (DDO <60 or ≥60 mg/day).

RESULTS: Among 252 patients admitted to the ED with a daily use of opioids, 149 were admitted with pain and 82 received a PRN opioid dose within 3 h. Twenty-seven out of 82 (33%) patients received a PRN dose of <15% of DDO (95% CI: 23.7-43). When dichotomised; 10 out of 50 (20%) patients with a DDO <60 mg/day (95% CI: 10.0-33.7) versus 17 out of 32 (53.1%) patients with a DDO ≥60 mg/day (95% CI: 34.7-70.9) received an inadequate PRN dose (relative risk, RR: 2.65 [95% CI: 1.4-5.1]).

CONCLUSIONS: Patients with daily use of opioids presenting in the ED with acute pain had a high risk of inadequate PRN opioid dose, especially if the DDO was high. Awareness about and education focusing on sufficient PRN doses for patients with a daily use of opioids is (still) called for.

Original languageEnglish
Article number14351
JournalActa Anaesthesiologica Scandinavica
Pages (from-to)410-416
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2024


  • emergency medicine
  • opioid tolerance
  • pain
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Analgesics, Opioid/therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Pain Management
  • Acute Pain/drug therapy
  • Patients


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