I am a
Home I AM A Search Login

Papers of the Week

Papers: 5 Aug 2023 - 11 Aug 2023

Geriatric, Review

Human Studies, Neurobiology

Acute Pain

2023 Aug 11

Drugs Aging


Evaluation and Treatment of Acute Trauma Pain in Older Adults.


Merrick M, Grange R, Rudd S, Shipway D


In the context of an ageing population, the demographic sands of trauma are shifting. Increasingly, trauma units are serving older adults who have sustained injuries in low-energy falls from a standing height. Older age is commonly associated with changes in physiology, as well as an increased prevalence of frailty and multimorbidity, including cardiac, renal and liver disease. These factors can complicate the safe and effective administration of analgesia in the older trauma patient. Trauma services therefore need to adapt to meet this demographic shift and ensure that trauma clinicians are sufficiently skilled in treating pain in complex older people. This article is dedicated to the management of acute trauma pain in older adults. It aims to highlight the notable clinical challenges of managing older trauma patients compared with their younger counterparts. It offers an overview of the evidence and practical opinion on the merits and drawbacks of commonly used analgesics, as well as more novel and emerging analgesic adjuncts. A search of Medline (Ovid, from inception to 7 November 2022) was conducted by a medical librarian to identify relevant articles using keyword and subject heading terms for trauma, pain, older adults and analgesics. Results were limited to articles published in the last 10 years and English language. Relevant articles’ references were hand-screened to identify other relevant articles. There is paucity of dedicated high-quality evidence to guide management of trauma-related pain in older adults. Ageing-related changes in physiology, the accumulation of multimorbidity, frailty and the risk of inducing delirium secondary to analgesic medication present a suite of challenges in the older trauma patient. An important nuance of treating pain in older trauma patients is the challenge of balancing iatrogenic adverse effects of analgesia against the harms of undertreated pain, the complications and consequences of which include immobility, pneumonia, sarcopenia, pressure ulcers, long-term functional decline, increased long-term care needs and mortality. In this article, the role of non-opioid agents including short-course non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) is discussed. Opioid selection and dosing are reviewed for older adults suffering from acute trauma pain in the context of kidney and liver disease. The evidence base and limitations of other adjuncts such as topical and intravenous lidocaine, ketamine and regional anaesthesia in acute geriatric trauma are discussed.