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Hitting them where it hurts? Low dose nalbuphine therapy
  1. M Woollard1,
  2. T Jones2,
  3. K Pitt3,
  4. N Vetter4
  1. 1Pre-hospital Emergency Research Unit, Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust/University of Wales College of Medicine, Cardiff, UK
  2. 2Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust, Pontypool, UK
  3. 3Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust, Swansea, UK
  4. 4Department of Epidemiology, Statistics and Public Health, University of Wales College of Medicine, Cardiff, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
 Mr M Woollard, Pre-hospital Emergency Research Unit, Lansdowne Hospital, Sanatorium Road, Cardiff CF1 8UL, UK;


Objective: To determine if low dose nalbuphine provides an adequate reduction in pain with minimal side effects.

Methods: Prospective cohort of 115 patients given nalbuphine by paramedics in Wales and the English borders.

Outcome measures: (1) Mean total dose of nalbuphine administered, change in pain score, time to adequate pain relief (score below four), and change in respiratory rate and systolic blood pressure; (2) proportion of patients continuing to suffer moderate to severe pain on arrival at hospital; (3) incidence of adverse events.

Results: Full data were obtained for all patients. The mean total dose of nalbuphine administered was 6.09 mg (range 2.5 to 12.5 mg). This was significantly higher in trauma than ischaemic chest pain patients (7.03 versus 5.13 mg). The mean reduction in pain score was −3.97 (95% CI −4.38 to −3.57, p<0.001). The mean time to adequate pain relief (where this was achieved) was 15.7 minutes (95% CI 13.4 to 17.9 minutes). On arrival at hospital 60% of patients (n=69, 95% CI 50.9 to 68.5%) still met ambulance criteria for analgesia (70.7% of trauma patients and 49.1% with ischaemic chest pain). Systolic blood pressure fell by a mean of −3.67 (95% CI −6.76 to −0.58, p=0.02) and respiratory rate increased by a mean of 1.63 (95% CI 1.08 to 2.17, p<0.001). Two patients complained of nausea (1.74%, 95% CI 0.5 to 6.0%). No other adverse events were reported.

Conclusion: Low dose nalbuphine results in few adverse events, but offers poor pain control for a high proportion of patients.

  • nalbuphine, paramedic
  • analgesia
  • ambulance

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