Opinion survey of analgesia for abdominal pain in Israeli emergency departments

Ofer Zimmerman, Pinchas Halpern

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Background: The long-standing and ongoing controversy regarding administration of analgesia to patients with acute abdominal pain prior to final diagnosis has not yet been resolved, despite considerable research. Consequently, wide variations in clinical practice exist. Objectives: To determine the motives, attitudes and practices of emergency physicians, internists and surgeons in Israeli emergency departments regarding the administration of analgesia before diagnosis in patients with acute abdominal pain. Methods: Questionnaires were completed by 122 physicians in 21 EDs throughout Israel and the replies were analyzed. Results: Most EDs did not have a clear policy on analgesia for undifferentiated abdominal pain, according to 65% of the responders. More internists (75%) than surgeons (54%) (P = 0.02) and more emergency physicians (81%) than all other physicians (60%) (P = 0.05) held this opinion. Most respondents (64%) supported administration of analgesia pre-diagnostically. Support for analgesia was significantly stronger among internists (75%) compared to surgeons (52%) (P = 0.03). Despite this wide support, most respondents (68%) indicated that analgesia was rarely or never given prediagnostically and, when it was, more surgeons (58%) than other physicians made that decision. Most internists (73%) and all surgeons reported that patients receive analgesia only after being examined by surgeons. Time allocated to the ED (part or full-time) significantly (P = 0.02) influenced decision-making, with 51% of part-time physicians vs. 25% of full-time opposing prompt administration of analgesia. Opinions on who should decide were divided according to medical specialty, with surgeons and internists almost opposed, as well as by physician age and percent of his/her time spent working in the ED. More surgeons than internists (P = 0.0005) reported that analgesia sometimes interfered with making a diagnosis. Most physicians (90%) stated that opiates impede diagnosis to some extent. However, 58% of them supported the administration of opiates, more or less frequently. Intramuscular diclofenac was the most preferred analgesic, followed by intravenous morphine and pethidine; individual preferences extended beyond the list of actually administered drugs. Conclusions: There is no consensus on the administration of analgesia for undiagnosed acute abdominal pain in EDs in Israel. Physicians' attitudes are influenced by training, experience, and percent of personal time allocated to work in the ED.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)681-685
Number of pages5
JournalIsrael Medical Association Journal
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2004


  • Abdominal pain
  • Analgesia
  • Emergency department
  • Opiates


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