Background Studies have found that pre-hospital and emergency department (ED) analgesia for children is sub-optimal. In the pre-hospital setting, barriers include limited parenteral routes, education or clinical experience and practice legislation restricting the use of opioids by paramedics. Ketamine is safe and effective with multiple administration routes. It is not bound by the controlled drugs limitations in the pre-hospital setting, and is familiar to pre-hospital and ED practitioners.
Methods Questionnaires were sent to all UK Ambulance Service Medical Directors and Paediatric Major Trauma Centres to establish current use of parenteral analgesics, and acceptability of alternatives in pre-hospital care such as ketamine. Descriptive analysis was undertaken.
Results Intranasal opiates were the first line parenteral analgesics in injured children in all EDs. Frequent shortages of IN diamorphine resulted in more variability of second line choices, with 40% opting for another opioid. 96% of EDs would support the use of ketamine by pre-hospital clinicians, although concerns regarding inappropriate (IV) use and use by technician crews were raised. Most ED clinicians were unaware of the limited analgesic choices available to paramedics, with many suggesting alternative opiates as well as ketamine.
All ambulance service directors recognised the need for alternative analgesics being made available. Without legislative changes, inhaled/IN agents or oral opiates were the only current options. All services were supportive of research to explore the use of ketamine by paramedics for injured children.
Conclusions There is support for the addition of IN ketamine into paramedics’ repertoire of analgesics and recognition of potential benefit. However, there is a lack of experience and evidence around its use, thus warranting research to consider the impact on analgesic timeliness, adequacy and effectiveness. An analgesia ‘system of care’ which integrates pre- and in-hospital practice would be facilitated by the use of medicines effective in managing pain and familiar to practitioners in both settings.
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