Analgesia for trauma and burns

Academic Article


  • This article has described the physiologic impact of trauma- and burn- related pain as well as the effect of a clinician's choice of analgesic method, using the specific example of regional analgesia for pain caused by chest trauma. It has been observed that trauma exerts a holistic influence upon the organism, marshaling reflexes, multi-system physiologic stress responses, and psychologic responses-some adaptive and others maladaptive. There is reason to consider that timely analgesia can intervene in this dynamic process and interdict the establishment of a debilitated state. A key finding of these studies is that a report of pain relief may not be the best outcome measure since the choice of analgesic method(s) has a significant impact on the secondary effects of pain. Although extrapolated from studies of perioperative pain, findings do suggest that there may be a critical period of time during which the secondary effects of a painful stimulus may be attenuated or reversed. How long this period of reversibility exists has not been determined, so planning for the level and goals of analgesia intervention should occur early on. Analgesia should be viewed not only as a humanitarian gesture, but also a therapeutic maneuver with the goal being the early restoration of function and the mitigation of a chronic debilitated state. There is scattered evidence that regional analgesic techniques using local anesthetics have some advantages over other analgesic modalities, particularly in the trauma patient with pulmonary compromise; however, as with other medical interventions, one should develop a strategic plan of application which includes consideration of potential complications and side effects, in addition to the potential therapeutic effects. The traumatized body, as well as the attending physician, must deal with inflammation, the neurohumoral reaction, musculoskeletal reflex responses, and numerous other reactions designed to stabilize an acutely destabilized systemic entity. Multimodal analgesia, with the balanced use of systemic and regional medications, has given the best short- and long-term results in studies of postthoracotomy pain. The use of a similar combined plan for posttraumatic analgesia seems logical; however, many questions remain as yet unanswered. In particular, what are the optimal combinations of techniques/medications to employ to maximize analgesia and minimize secondary effects of trauma? Can an aggressive multimodal approach intervene effectively in the development of chronic pain states, and if so, for how long? What are the long-term benefits to be derived from making a significant impact on the stress response? Last, but not least, can analgesic interventions be shown to be cost-effective according to current societal pressures to reduce the cost of health care? These and other questions are not easy to answer. Trauma strikes, in a variable fashion, patients of all ages, with all forms of comorbidity, and is treated by a technology that continues to evolve. Previous research related to the effects of analgesic treatments has been hampered by the limitations that arise when isolated groups embark on vast projects with limited numbers of patients available. It is time for investigators at multiple centers to embark on coordinated efforts to address long-term questions related to trauma and the therapeutic efficacy of analgesia.
  • Published In

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Hedderich R; Ness TJ
  • Start Page

  • 167
  • End Page

  • 184
  • Volume

  • 15
  • Issue

  • 1