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The suboptimal provision of analgesia to children in the emergency department (ED) is well-described. A yet unexplored barrier is caregiver or child refusal of analgesia. We sought to evaluate the frequency of caregiver/child acceptance of analgesia offered in the ED.
We conducted a two-centre cross-sectional study of 743 caregivers of children 4–17 years presenting to the pediatric ED with an acutely painful condition using a survey and medical record review. The primary outcome was the proportion of children/caregiver pairs who accepted analgesia in the ED.
The median (IQR) age of children was 11 (7) years, and 339/743 (45.6%) were female. The overall survey response rate was 73% (743/1018). In the 24 hours preceding ED arrival, the median (IQR) maximal pain score rated by children and caregivers was 8/10 (4) and 5/10 (2), respectively, and 30.4% (226/743) of caregivers offered analgesia. In the ED, children reported a median (IQR) pain score of 8/10 (2) and 54.9% (408/743) were offered analgesia. When offered in the ED, analgesia was accepted by 91% (373/408). Overall, 55.7% (414/743) of children received some form of analgesia.
Most caregivers/children accept analgesia when offered by ED personnel, suggesting refusal is not a major barrier to optimal management of children’s pain and highlighting the importance of ED personnel in encouraging adequate analgesia. A large proportion of children in pain are not offered analgesia by caregivers or ED personnel. Educational strategies for recognizing and treating pain should be directed at children, caregivers, and ED personnel.
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