Original Research

‘This won’t hurt a bit!’ – A descriptive review of health care professionals’ pharmacological management of pain in minor trauma

Duncan M. Havenga, Jaykumaran Govender, Carolyn Lewis
South African Family Practice | Vol 63, No 1 : Part 2| a5249 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/safp.v63i1.5249 | © 2021 Duncan Michael Havenga, Jaykumaran Govender, Carolyn Lewis | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 08 November 2020 | Published: 22 April 2021

About the author(s)

Duncan M. Havenga, Division of Emergency Medicine, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela School of Medicine, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa
Jaykumaran Govender, Division of Emergency Medicine, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela School of Medicine, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa
Carolyn Lewis, Division of Emergency Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa


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Abstract

Background: Emergency Centres (ECs) have a prominent trauma burden requiring effective pain management. This study aimed to review analgesia-prescribing habits in minor trauma, reviewing the patient demographics and diagnoses, analgesia-prescribing habits of health care professionals (HCPs) managing these cases, and differences in prescribing noted by patients’ age group, gender and triage code.

Methods: A prospective, cross-sectional, descriptive study was conducted in a regional EC in KwaZulu-Natal. HCPs managing minor trauma patients completed a closed-ended questionnaire which indicated the patients’ demographics, diagnosis and analgesia prescribed.

Results: The study comprised of 314 cases of which the demographic most represented were male patients aged between 20–30 years with soft tissue injuries. Simple analgesics and weak opioids (paracetamol, ibuprofen and tramadol) accounted for 87.9% of prescriptions. Referral clinics prescribed less analgesics than that provided in the EC. There were mostly no significant differences in prescription habits by patients’ age group, gender and triage code.

Conclusion: Presenting complaints in our study were varied and likely to result in mild to moderate pain. Only a minority of patients received analgesics at initial contact. Standardised protocols providing treatment guidance for nurse-initiated pain management at initial contact is thus important. There were no significant differences in analgesics prescribed for adults and the elderly, which is worrisome given the potential negative side effects of analgesics in the elderly. Similar concerns in our paediatric population were not noted. Ensuring adequate analgesia with cognisance for safety at the extremes of age is of paramount importance.


Keywords

analgesia; trauma; emergency centre; developing countries; rural medicine.

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