Efficacy of an Acute Pain Titration Protocol Driven by Patient Response to a Simple Query: Do You Want More Pain Medication?

Andrew K. Chang, Polly E. Bijur, Lynne Holden, E. John Gallagher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Study objective We assess the efficacy of a simple pain titration protocol of 1-mg increments of intravenous hydromorphone, given at fixed intervals, driven solely by patient response to a yes/no question. Methods This was a prospective interventional cohort study of nonelderly adults with acute severe pain defined as requiring intravenous opioids in the judgment of the attending emergency physician. All patients received 1 mg intravenous hydromorphone and 30 minutes later were asked, "Do you want more pain medication?" Patients responding yes received an additional 1 mg of intravenous hydromorphone and were asked the same question 30 minutes after receiving it. Those responding no did not receive additional opioid and were asked the question again 30 minutes later. Each patient was queried 4 times. The primary endpoint was the proportion of patients achieving satisfactory pain control, defined as declining additional pain medication on 1 or more occasions. Results Of 215 patients enrolled, there were 8 protocol violations, leaving 207 patients with analyzable data; 205 of 207 patients (99%; 95% confidence interval 97% to 100%) achieved satisfactory analgesia at 1 or more points during the study. Nine patients desaturated below 95% on room air, 2 had respiratory rates less than 10 breaths/min, and 2 had pulse rates less than 50 beats/min. No adverse events were associated with amount of hydromorphone received. Conclusion A pain protocol, based on titration of 1 mg intravenous hydromorphone, driven solely by patient response to a simple standardized question repeated at intervals, resulted in achievement of satisfactory analgesia on at least 1 occasion in 99% of patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)565-572
Number of pages8
JournalAnnals of emergency medicine
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine


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