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COnsensus on Pediatric Pain in the Emergency Room: the COPPER project, issued by 17 Italian scientific societies

Abstract

In the pediatric setting, management of pain in the emergency department – and even in common care – is a challenging exercise, due to the complexity of the pediatric patient, poor specific training of many physicians, and scant resources.

A joint effort of several Italian societies involved in pediatrics or in pain management has led to the definition of the PIPER group and the COPPER project. By applying a modified Delphi method, the COPPER project resulted in the definition of 10 fundamental statements. These may represent the basis for improving the correct management of children pain in the emergency department.

Introduction

Pain is frequently experienced in the pediatric age, both in primary care and in hospitals. Up 80% of hospital admissions are caused by diseases associated with pain, either acute or chronic [1,2,3]. This figure is even higher in the emergency department (ED) setting [4, 5]. Remarkably, pain is defined as a feared symptom; it is often present at the onset of a disease, it is always present during diagnostic and therapeutic procedures and it is associated with the fear of the disease itself [1]. Moreover, pain is a damaging symptom; it is widely accepted that alterations in neural activity due to pain and injury in early development may produce immediate and long-term effects on sensory processing and future response to pain [6]. Last, pain is associated with an increased anxiety and psychological discomfort; it also increases parental distress.

Therefore, the control of pain and stress in children is a vital component of emergency medical care [4]. In particular, timely administration of proper analgesic treatment can influence the outcomes of the medical procedure in the ED and can have a lasting effect on the perception of the child and his/her family about current and future medical care [1].

In Italy, Law 38/2010 is a precedent: the relief of pain is a child’s “right to health”. It is an ethical mandate to appropriately treat pain and suffering in pediatric patients [7]. However, pain is sometimes poorly managed in the ED [4, 8]. Barriers to the assessment and treatment of pain in children include a lack of knowledge regarding pain and its consequences on brain development, pain treatment, unfamiliarity with new products and techniques, fear of the adverse effects of the medication, personal values and beliefs, and lack of resources. Proper assessment of pain also has potential medical–legal implications.

Therefore, a joint effort of 17 Italian Scientific Societies (see acknowledgments) who are active in the field of pain management and pediatrics established the PIPER group (Pain in Paediatric Emergency Room), with the aim to reach a COnsensus on Paediatric Pain in the Emergency Room (COPPER). Here, we summarize the key findings of the COPPER project.

Methods

The COPPER project was independently established by the PIPER group in September 2018. A Study Group was established within the members of PIPER to review the literature and draft a consensus document and some statements regarding the management of pain in children admitted to the ED.

The PIPER group focused on five main fields: ethics and deontology, prevalence, pathogenesis, evaluation, measurement, and acute and procedural pain therapy. For each field, international and Italian national guidelines, metanalysis, systematic reviews, consensus documents and position papers published on PubMed, EMBASE and Cochrane Library in the last 10 years were reviewed; the Italian Health Department recommendations were also considered. The most relevant papers were selected for drafting the consensus document.

A total of 20 statements were prepared by the Study Group and evaluated by the Panel of Experts in December 2018. In this phase, the statements were improved, and the redundant parts were excluded or merged. The statement developed for the ethics, law and deontology field was considered to be a fundamental premise for the entire document and was excluded from the evaluation of consent since it related to well-defined national and international obligations.

In January 2019, a consensus meeting was held, and each statement was discussed, modified and evaluated collectively using a modified Delphi method, in line with similar efforts [9], which led to the approval of 11 statements. The approved statements were then corrected by the Study Group and reduced to 10: 1 on prevalence, 1 on pathogenesis, 2 on evaluation and measurement, 5 on therapy and 1 dedicated specifically to pain management in children with neurocognitive problems.

The 10 statements were then assessed by the Panel of Experts again using the modified Delphi method in April 2019. The definitive consensus document was submitted to the members of each Scientific Society and Association and was finally approved in May 2019.

Results

The COPPER panel agreed that access to pain care is a fundamental human right. Preventing and appropriately treating pain is an ethical, deontological and legal obligation to which all health professionals are bound, and which is prescribed by Law 38/2010 of the Italian Republic, the Code of Ethics of Nurses and in the Medical Code of Ethics. The 10 statements are reported in Table 1.

Table 1 Management of pediatric pain in the ED and beyond: the 10 statements of the COPPER project

Conclusions

In the pediatric setting, management of pain in the ED – and even in common care – is a challenging exercise, due to the complexity of the pediatric patient, poor specific training of many physicians, and scant resources [1]. A joint effort of several Italian Societies involved in pediatrics or in pain management has led to the definition of the PIPER group and the COPPER project. The COPPER project resulted in the definition of 10 fundamental statements, which will represent the basis for an actual real change in the correct management of children pain in the ED.

Availability of data and materials

Not applicable.

Abbreviations

COPPER:

Consensus on Paediatric Pain in the Emergency Room

ED:

Emergency department

PIPER:

Pain in Paediatric Emergency Room

References

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Acknowledgements

This work was made possible thanks to the support and cooperation of 17 Italian Scientific Societies (ACP, Associazione Culturale Pediatri; AIEOP Associazione Italiana di Ematologia e Oncologia Pediatrica; AOPI Associazione Ospedali Pediatrici Italiani; AMIETIP Accademia Medica Infermieristica di Emergenza e Terapia Intensiva Pediatrica; FIARPED Federazione Italiana delle Associazioni e Società Scientifiche dell’Area Pediatrica; FIASO Federazione Italiana Aziende Sanitarie e Ospedaliere; FISM Federazione delle Società Medico-Scientifiche Italiane; ONSP Osservatorio Nazionale Specializzandi Pediatria; SARNePI Società di Anestesia e Rianimazione Neonatale e Pediatrica Italiana; SIAARTI Società Italiana di Anestesia Analgesia Rianimazione e Terapia Intensiva; SIMEU Società Italiana di Medicina di Emergenza e Urgenza; SIMEUP Società Italiana di Medicina Emergenza Urgenza Pediatrica; SIN Società Italiana di Neonatologia; SIP Società Italiana di Pediatria; SIPO Società Italiana di Pediatria Ospedaliera; SIPPS Società Italiana di Pediatria Preventiva e Sociale; SIMGePed Società Italiana Malattie Genetiche Pediatriche e Disabilità). The work was supported by an unrestricted grant from Angelini. Editorial assistance was provided by Sara di Nunzio and Aashni Shah (Polistudium SRL, Milan, Italy). This assistance was supported by internal funds.

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FB designed and coordinated the Project, reviewed the literature, participated in the drafting of the Consensus and to the preparation of the manuscript. IC, EC, DS, AL participated in the organization of the Project, reviewed the literature, participated in the drafting of the Consensus and critically revised the manuscript. LG contributed to organization of the Project and to preparation of the manuscript. AU participated in the organization and supervision of the Project and critically revised the manuscript. AA, GA, MA, MA, FB, RMC, EC, RC, ADM, GdM, AF, FF, MF, MG, PL, FM, LM, LM, AM, PP, NP, RR, ST, ET, LV and SZ participated in the organization of the Project, reviewed the literature, participated in the drafting of the Consensus and critically revised the manuscript. The authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Franca Benini.

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Benini, F., Corsini, I., Castagno, E. et al. COnsensus on Pediatric Pain in the Emergency Room: the COPPER project, issued by 17 Italian scientific societies. Ital J Pediatr 46, 101 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13052-020-00858-9

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Keywords

  • Pediatric pain
  • Emergency department
  • Law 38/2010