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Am J Emerg Med. 2000 May;18(3):250-3.

Analgesic administration to patients with an acute abdomen: a survey of emergency medicine physicians.

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  • 1Tufts University School of Medicine, USA.


The objective of this study was to examine current practice patterns of analgesia administration among emergency physicians (EPs) when caring for a patient with an acute abdomen. Cross sectional data were acquired by a survey mailed in October 1997 to 1,000 American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) members from a purchased ACEP mailing list which contained 1,000 randomized ACEP members. A repeat survey was sent to nonresponders 2 months later and a random subset of recurrent nonresponders were telephoned. The questionnaire focused on physician demographics, practice patterns, and factors which influenced physician decision of when and whether to administer pain medication, specifically opiates, to patients with an acute abdomen. Forty-four percent of surveys were returned. Seventy-seven percent of respondents were men with an average of 10 years of experience. Fifty-seven percent were residency trained in emergency medicine. Although eighty-five percent felt that the conservative administration of pain medication did not change important physical findings on the physical examination, 76% choose not to give an opiate analgesic until after the examination by a surgeon. Twenty-five percent of patients did not receive any pain medication in the department. In conclusion, although EPs report that the judicious administration of pain medication does not mask important examination findings, the majority wait until after the surgeon has evaluated the patient to deliver analgesics.

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