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J Emerg Med. 1998 Jul-Aug;16(4):549-56.

Ketorolac versus acetaminophen-codeine in the emergency department treatment of acute low back pain.

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Royal Columbian Hospital, New Westminster, BC, Canada.


Acute low back pain is a common problem in the emergency department (ED). Effective management of acute pain enhances early rehabilitation and recovery. Given the importance of inflammatory mediators in pain generation and the adverse effects associated with opioids, it is logical to expect that a non-opioid agent with antiinflammatory and analgesic properties would provide excellent analgesia with fewer adverse effects. This double-blind, randomized, multicenter clinical trial, performed in six university and community hospital EDs, compares the analgesic efficacy and adverse effects of ketorolac to those of acetaminophen-codeine in ED patients with acute musculoskeletal low back pain. Our hypothesis was that ketorolac would provide superior analgesia with fewer adverse effects. One hundred twenty-three patients with acute low back pain were randomized to receive ketorolac (KET, N = 63) or acetaminophen-codeine (ACOD, N = 60). Most (79%) were males, and the mean age was 34.5 years. After baseline clinical assessment, patients were treated with ketorolac (10 mg every 4 to 6 h as needed, up to four daily doses) or acetaminophen-codeine (600 mg-60 mg, respectively, every 4 to 6 h as needed, up to six daily doses) and followed for one week. Pain intensity was assessed on visual analogue and categorical scales. Functional capacity, overall pain relief, and overall medication rating were assessed on categorical scales. Adverse events were documented. Primary outcomes included: 1) Pain intensity differences, based on visual analogue scores, for the 0 to 6 h treatment phase. 2) Incidence of adverse events. Secondary outcomes included analgesic efficacy, functional capacity, and overall subjective drug evaluation at one week. Both drugs provided substantial pain relief, with maximal effect 2.2 h after oral dosing. There were no significant differences in analgesic efficacy, functional capacity, or overall pain relief between the two groups. Sixteen patients (10 KET vs. 6 ACOD, NS) withdrew prematurely because of drug inefficacy. Patients in the ACOD group reported significantly more adverse drug events and serious adverse drug events. Seven patients--all in the ACOD group--withdrew from the study because of adverse drug events. Based on comparable efficacy and a superior adverse event profile, ketorolac was preferable to acetaminophen with codeine for the treatment of acute low back pain in the ED.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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