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Acute pain consult and management is associated with improved mortality in rib fracture patients


Introduction Traumatic rib fractures result in significant patient morbidity and mortality, which increases with patient age and number of rib fractures. A dedicated acute pain service (APS) providing expertize in multimodal pain management may reduce these risks and improve outcomes. We aimed to test the hypothesis that protocolized APS consultation decreases mortality and morbidity in traumatic rib fracture patients.

Methods This is a retrospective observational, propensity-matched cohort study of adult patients with trauma with rib fractures from 2012 to 2015, at a single, large level 1 trauma center corresponding to introduction and incorporation of APS consultation into the institutional rib fracture pathway. Using electronic medical records and trauma registry data, we identified adult patients presenting with traumatic rib fractures. Patients with hospital length of stay (LOS) ≥2 days were split into two cohorts based on presence of APS consult using 1:1 propensity matching of age, gender, comorbidities and injury severity. The primary outcome was difference in hospital mortality. Secondary outcomes included LOS and pulmonary morbidity.

Results 2486 patients were identified, with a final matched cohort of 621 patients receiving APS consult and 621 control patients. The mortality rate was 1.8% among consult patients and 6.6% among control patients (adjusted OR 0.25, 95% CI 0.13 to 0.50; p=0.001). The average treatment effect of consult on mortality was 4.8% (95% CI 1.2% to 8.5%;. p<0.001). APS consultation was associated with increased intensive care unit (ICU) LOS (1.19 day; 95% CI 0.48 to 1.90; p=0.001) and hospital LOS (1.61 days; 95% CI 0.81 to 2.41 days; p<0.001). No difference in pulmonary complications was observed.

Discussion An APS consult in rib fracture patients is associated with decreased mortality and no difference in pulmonary complications yet increased ICU and hospital LOS.

  • critical care
  • pain management
  • injections, spinal
  • analgesia
  • acute pain

Data availability statement

All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as online supplemental information.

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