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Introduction: Children and adolescents are not impervious to the unprecedented epidemic of opioid misuse in the United States. In 2016 more than 88,000 adolescents between the ages of 12–17 reported misusing opioid medication, and evidence suggests that there has been a rise in opioid-related mortality for pediatric patients. A major source of prescribed opioids for the treatment of pain is the emergency department (ED). The current study sought to assess the complex relationship between opioid administration, pain severity, and parent satisfaction with children’s care in a pediatric ED.

Methods: We examined data from a tertiary pediatric care facility. A health survey questionnaire was administered after ED discharge to capture the outcome of parental likelihood of providing a positive facility rating. We abstracted patient demographic, clinical, and top diagnostic information using electronic health records. Data were merged and multivariable models were constructed.

Results: We collected data from 15,895 pediatric patients between the ages of 0–17 years (mean = 6.69; standard deviation = 5.19) and their parents. Approximately 786 (4.94%) patients were administered an opioid; 8212 (51.70%) were administered a non-opioid analgesic; and 3966 (24.95%) expressed clinically significant pain (pain score >/= 4). Results of a multivariable regression analysis from these pediatric patients revealed a three-way interaction of age, pain severity, and opioid administration (odds ratio 1.022, 95% confidence interval, 1.006, 1.038, P = 0.007). Our findings suggest that opioid administration negatively impacted parent satisfaction of older adolescent patients in milder pain who were administered an opioid analgesic, but positively influenced the satisfaction scores of parents of younger children who were administered opioids. When pain levels were severe, the relationship between age and patient experience was not statistically significant.

Conclusion: This investigation highlights the complexity of the relationship between opioid administration, pain severity, and satisfaction, and suggests that the impact of opioid administration on parent satisfaction is a function of the age of the child.


This article was originally published in Western Journal of Emergency Medicine: Integrating Emergency Care with Population Health, volume 22, issue 5, in 2021.


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