Prehospital acute traumatic pain assessment and management practices in the Western Cape, South Africa: a retrospective review

Andrit Lourens, Romy Parker, Peter Hodkinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
56 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Trauma is a common aetiology of acute pain in the emergency setting, and traumatic injuries have been recognised as a global public health crisis leading to numerous deaths and disabilities. This study aimed to identify the prevalence of acute pain among high acuity trauma patients presenting to a public sector emergency medical service and to describe prehospital acute traumatic pain assessment and management practices amongst emergency care providers in the Western Cape Province, South Africa. Methods: A retrospective review of electronic patient care reports of trauma patients treated by the South African Western Cape Emergency Medical Services between January 1 and December 31, 2017 was conducted. Stratified random sampling was utilised to select 2401 trauma patients out of 24,575 that met the inclusion criteria. Results: Of the 2401 patients reviewed, 435 (18.1%) had a pain score recorded, of which 423 (97.2%) were experiencing pain. An additional 8.1% (n = 194) of patients had pain or tenderness mentioned in the working diagnosis but no pain score noted. Eighty-one (18.6%) patients experienced mild pain, 175 (40.2%) moderate pain and 167 (38.2%) severe pain. No association was found between a pain score recorded and age group (≤ 14 versus > 14 years) (p = 0.649) or gender (p = 0.139). Only 7.6% of patients with moderate-to-severe pain and 2.8% of all trauma patients received any form of analgesic medication. No association was found between the administration of analgesia and age group (≤ 14 versus > 14 years) (p = 0.151) or gender (p = 0.054). Patients were more likely to receive analgesia if they had a pain score recorded (p < 0.001), were managed by advanced life support practitioners (p < 0.001) or had severe pain (p = 0.001). Conclusion: Acute trauma pain assessment and management practices in this prehospital cohort are less well established than reported elsewhere and whether this reflects emergency care training, institutional culture, scopes of practice or analgesic resources, requires further research. Emergency medical services need to monitor and promote quality pain care, enhance pain education and ensure that all levels of emergency care providers have access to analgesic medication approved for prehospital use. Clear and rational guidelines would enable better pain management by all cadres of providers, for all levels of pain.

Original languageEnglish
Article number21
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Emergency Medicine
Issue number21
Publication statusPublished - 5 May 2020
Externally publishedYes

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  • Acute pain assessment and management
  • Analgesia
  • Prehospital
  • Trauma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine


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