Canadian Journal of Emergency Medicine
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Lumbar punctures (LPs) are painful for children, and analgesia is recommended by academic societies. However, less than one-third of pediatric emergency physicians (EPs) adhere to recommendations. We assessed the willingness to provide analgesia among pediatric and general EPs and explored patient and provider-specific barriers.
We surveyed physicians in the Pediatric Emergency Research Canada (PERC) or Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians (CAEP) databases from May 1 to August 1, 2016, regarding hypothetical scenarios for a 3-week-old infant, a 3-year-old child, and a 16-year-old child requiring an LP. The primary outcome was the willingness to provide analgesia. Secondary outcomes included the type of analgesia, reasons for withholding analgesia, and their perceived competence performing LPs.
For a 3-week old infant, 123/144 (85.4%) pediatric EPs and 231/262 (88.2%) general EPs reported a willingness to provide analgesia. In contrast, the willingness to provide analgesia was almost universal for a 16-year-old (144/144 [100%] of pediatric EPs and 261/262 [99.6%] of general EPs) and a 3-year-old (142/144 [98.6%] of pediatric EPs and 256/262 [97.7%] of general EPs). For an infant, the most common barrier cited by pediatric EPs was the perception that it produced additional discomfort (13/21, 61.9%). The same reason was cited by general EPs (12/31, 38.7%), along with unfamiliarity surrounding analgesic options (13/31, 41.9%).
Compared to a preschool child and adolescent, the willingness to provide analgesia for an LP in a young infant is suboptimal among pediatric and general EPs. Misconceptions and the lack of awareness of analgesic options should be targets for practice-changing strategies.