Conference Coverage

Multiple analgesia options for kids with acute pain


 

EXPERT ANALYSIS FROM PAS 2018

Many clinicians don’t hesitate to administer analgesia in kids who present with acute pain, but nonpharmacologic therapies suffice for some patients, according to Naveen Poonai, MD, FRCPC.

“Too many times, nonpharmacologic therapies are relegated to the very last paragraph of recommendations or to the very bottom of a URL,” he said at the Pediatric Academic Societies meeting. “Nonpharmacologic therapies are things that our grandparents told us to do: common sense things that can be done at triage. They don’t require memorization of dosing, and most importantly, they don’t have side effects.”

Dr. Naveen Poonai, research director in the division of pediatric emergency medicine at Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry at Western University, London, Ont. Doug Brunk/MDedge News

Dr. Naveen Poonai

Dr. Poonai, research director in the division of pediatric emergency medicine at the University of Western Ontario, London, characterized pain in children as “a very personalized experience. You really cannot separate out pharmacologic from nonpharmacologic therapies when you’re dealing with pain in the ED setting – and certainly in any other acute setting. For example, immobilization, ice, child-life specialists, and distraction all have been found to benefit kids with musculoskeletal injuries.”

When analgesia is indicated, clinicians can choose from a variety of agents in the postcodeine era. Dr. Poonai said that musculoskeletal injuries constitute 10-20% of pediatric emergency department visits, yet fewer than 60% of children receive adequate analgesia. “That’s what’s really important for patient and caregiver satisfaction,” he said.


Mounting evidence supports the use of ibuprofen as a go-to agent for mild to moderate pain in patients with musculoskeletal injuries, including results from a randomized, controlled multicenter trial of 500 youth (Canadian J Emerg Med. 2016:18:S29). “We know that ibuprofen is superior to acetaminophen or codeine and that it’s as good or better than oral opioids and with fewer side effects,” Dr. Poonai said, adding that it provides a 25 mm visual analog score (VAS) reduction in pain at 60 minutes. Another study that compared ibuprofen with codeine for acute pediatric arm fracture pain found that ibuprofen was associated with improved functioning and was at least as effective as acetaminophen plus codeine (Ann Emerg Med. 2009 Oct;54[4]:553-60).

A number of oral opioids have gained favor for use in children who present with acute pain. However, in a randomized trial, Dr. Poonai and his associates found no significant difference in analgesic efficacy between orally administered morphine and ibuprofen for the management of postfracture pain in 134 children (CMAJ. 2014 Dec 9;186[18]:1358-63). Oral morphine was also associated with more side effects. At the same time, tramadol and hydromorphone have not been well studied in children with musculoskeletal pain. “Currently, the use of hydromorphone is limited to children with sickle cell disease, but the use is branching out,” he said. “Oxycodone and oral morphine pose the greatest risk of side effects. The bottom line here is that opioids should be added to ibuprofen and acetaminophen rather than replacing them for mild to moderate pain.”

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