Approach to Cancer Pain Management in Emergency Departments: Comparison of General and Oncology Based Settings

Ilit Turgeman, Salvatore Campisi-Pinto, Maher Habiballah, Gil Bar-Sela

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Cancer-related pain constitutes a dominant reason for admission to emergency services, and a significant patient and healthcare challenge. Evidence points to the rising prevalence of opioid misuse in this patient group. We sought to compare drug delivery in an oncology-dedicated emergency department (OED) and a general emergency department (GED) within the same hospital. As such, we obtained patient and drug-related data for OED and GED during a designated three-month period, and compared them using Fisher’s exact test, chi-square tests and the Mann-Whitney test. In total, 584 patients had 922 visits to emergency services (OED n = 479; GED n = 443), and were given 1478 drugs (OED n = 557; GED n = 921). Pain was a prominent chief complaint among visitors to the OED (17%) and GED (21%). Approximately a fifth of all drugs used were analgesics (OED— 18.5%; GED—20.4%), however, in the GED, 51.6% (n = 97) were used for non-pain-related admis-sions, compared with 33.0% (n = 34) in OED. Opioid usage significantly differed between emergency settings. The GED administered three times as many intravenous opioids (p < 0.001), a narrower spectrum of oral and intravenous drugs (p = 0.003) and no rapid-acting opioids, significantly fewer pain adjuvants (10.9% versus 18.7%, p < 0.001), and, finally, non-guideline-recommended drugs for pain, such as meperidine and benzodiazepines. Taken together, compared with the GED, the management of cancer-related pain in the OED was more personalized, and characterized by fewer intravenous opioids, enhanced diversity in drug type, route and method of delivery. Efforts should be directed toward reduction of disparities in the treatment of cancer pain in emergency settings.

Original languageEnglish
Article number805
Issue number7
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • cancer
  • drugs
  • emergency department
  • opioids
  • pain

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Drug Discovery
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Pharmaceutical Science


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