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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The use of analgesics in managing post-operating pain Best, Lynette Sandra


This study was designed to describe the use of analgesics ordered pro re nata (PRN) in the management of acute post-operative pain. Specifically, the study purpose was to answer the following questions. What amounts and frequencies of analgesic are ordered PRN by physicians for patients in the first 48 hours following a cholecystectomy? What amounts and frequencies of analgesic are given by nurses to patients in the first 48 hours following a cholecystectomy? What is the patient's summational description of his/her pain at 24 and 48 hours following a cholecystectomy? A descriptive survey design was used. A convenience sample of 22 subjects participated in the study. These subjects met the study criteria and were scheduled for elective cholecystectomy at one of the two hospitals used. Data were gathered by auditing the charts for information pertinent to the prescriptions and administration of the analgesics and by interviewing the subjects. There was considerable variability in the amounts and frequencies of analgesics prescribed and in those given to the post-operative subjects. No routine patterns were identified. There was a significant difference in the amounts of analgesics prescribed and given between the two hospitals, the reasons for which were not explored. The decision to use the PRN-prescribed analgesics appeared to be made by the nurses but evidence of accountability taken by nurses for their role in assessing pain and evaluating the effectiveness of the analgesics was not reflected in the reviewed records. Analgesics for use in the Post-Anaesthetic Recovery Room in the immediate post-operative period were prescribed by the anaesthetists. All initial analgesics were given by the intravenous route in this setting. Subjects at Hospital B were prescribed and received considerably more analgesics (83%) than those at Hospital A. Analgesics for use on the ward were prescribed by the surgeons. All orders were for meperidine hydrochloride to be given PRN and all orders were unchanged for the 48-hour period studied. The amount of meperidine prescribed and given per intramuscular dose was usually within the 75 to 100 milligrams optimal dosage range for the drug. The meperidine was usually prescribed with a four hour interval between doses. Doses of meperidine were given with considerably longer intervals between doses than the duration of action of the drug. For the 48-hour period, the mean total amount prescribed, based on the maximum possible dosage was 1154 milligrams. The median total amount prescribed was 1050 milligrams. The mean total amount given was 625 milligrams or 54% of the prescribed amount and the median total amount given was 587 milligrams or 56% of the prescribed amount. Subjects on the ward at Hospital A were prescribed and given significantly more meperidine than those at Hospital B. The patients' summational descriptions of their pain emphasized the individuality of the pain experience. The physical sensations described were consistent with previous literature descriptions of postoperative pain. The subjective data collected reflected the difficulties and complexities of pain management. An often-stated assumption in the literature is that nurses use PRN-prescribed analgesics inappropriately in managing post-operative pain; that is, patients are uncomfortable because the analgesics are not given in adequate amounts or frequently enough. In this study, a relationship was not identified between the amounts of meperidine received by subjects and how they reported their post-operative pain. This finding suggests that the assumption, that increasing the analgesics used would increase patient comfort, requires further investigation. Based on the findings of this study, implications for postoperative pain management and nursing practice, and suggestions for further research were made.

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