Introduction: With at least 20% of ambulance patients reporting pain of moderate to severe intensity, pain management has become a primary function of modern ambulance services. The objective of this study was to describe the use of intravenous morphine, inhaled methoxyflurane, and intranasal fentanyl when administered in the out-of-hospital setting by paramedics within a large Australian ambulance service.
Methods: A retrospective analysis was conducted using data from ambulance patient health care records (PHCR) for all cases from 01 July 2007 through 30 June 2008 in which an analgesic agent was administered (alone or in combination).
Results: During the study period, there were 97,705 patients ≤100 years of age who received intravenous (IV) morphine, intranasal (IN) fentanyl, or inhaled methoxyflurane, either alone or in combination. Single-agent analgesia was administered in 87% of cases. Methoxyflurane was the most common agent, being administered in almost 60% of cases. Females were less likely to receive an opiate compared to males (RR = 0.83, 95% CI, 0.82–0.84, p <0.0001). Pediatric patients were less likely to receive opiate analgesia compared to adults (RR = 0.65, 95% CI, 0.63–0.67, p <0.0001). The odds of opiate analgesia (compared to pediatric patients 0–15 years) were 1.47; 2.10; 2.56 for 16–39 years, 40–59 years, and ≥60 years, respectively. Pediatric patients were more likely to receive fentanyl than morphine (RR = 1.69, 95% CI, 1.64–1.74, p < 0.0001).
Conclusion: In this ambulance service, analgesia most often is provided through the use of a single agent. The majority of patients receive non-opioid analgesia with methoxyflurane, most likely because all levels of paramedics are authorized to administer that analgesic. Females and children are less likely to receive opiate-based analgesia than their male and adult counterparts, respectively. Paramedics appear to favor intranasal opiate delivery over intravenous delivery in children with acute pain.