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Lumbar punctures (LPs) are painful for children, and analgesia is recommended by academic societies. However, less than one-third of pediatric emergency physicians (EPs) adhere to recommendations. We assessed the willingness to provide analgesia among pediatric and general EPs and explored patient and provider-specific barriers.
We surveyed physicians in the Pediatric Emergency Research Canada (PERC) or Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians (CAEP) databases from May 1 to August 1, 2016, regarding hypothetical scenarios for a 3-week-old infant, a 3-year-old child, and a 16-year-old child requiring an LP. The primary outcome was the willingness to provide analgesia. Secondary outcomes included the type of analgesia, reasons for withholding analgesia, and their perceived competence performing LPs.
For a 3-week old infant, 123/144 (85.4%) pediatric EPs and 231/262 (88.2%) general EPs reported a willingness to provide analgesia. In contrast, the willingness to provide analgesia was almost universal for a 16-year-old (144/144 [100%] of pediatric EPs and 261/262 [99.6%] of general EPs) and a 3-year-old (142/144 [98.6%] of pediatric EPs and 256/262 [97.7%] of general EPs). For an infant, the most common barrier cited by pediatric EPs was the perception that it produced additional discomfort (13/21, 61.9%). The same reason was cited by general EPs (12/31, 38.7%), along with unfamiliarity surrounding analgesic options (13/31, 41.9%).
Compared to a preschool child and adolescent, the willingness to provide analgesia for an LP in a young infant is suboptimal among pediatric and general EPs. Misconceptions and the lack of awareness of analgesic options should be targets for practice-changing strategies.
Evidence exists that analgesics are underutilized, delayed, and insufficiently dosed for emergency department (ED) patients with acute abdominal pain. For physicians practicing in a Canadian paediatric ED setting, we (1) explored theoretical practice variation in the provision of analgesia to children with acute abdominal pain; (2) identified reasons for withholding analgesia; and (3) evaluated the relationship between providing analgesia and surgical consultation.
Physician members of Paediatric Emergency Research Canada (PERC) were prospectively surveyed and presented with three scenarios of undifferentiated acute abdominal pain to assess management. A modified Dillman’s Tailored Design method was used to distribute the survey from June to July 2014.
Overall response rate was 74.5% (149/200); 51.7% of respondents were female and mean age was 44 (SD 8.4) years. The reported rates of providing analgesia for case scenarios representative of renal colic, appendicitis, and intussusception, were 100%, 92.1%, and 83.4%, respectively, while rates of providing intravenous opioids were 85.2%, 58.6%, and 12.4%, respectively. In all 60 responses where the respondent indicated they would obtain a surgical consultation, analgesia would be provided. In the 35 responses where analgesia would be withheld, 21 (60%) believed pain was not severe enough, while 5 (14.3%) indicated it would obscure a surgical condition.
Pediatric emergency physicians self-reported rates of providing analgesia for acute abdominal pain scenarios were higher than previously reported, and appeared unrelated to request for surgical consultation. However, an unwillingness to provide opioid analgesia, belief that analgesia can obscure a surgical condition, and failure to take self-reported pain at face value remain, suggesting that the need exists for further knowledge translation efforts.
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