OBJECTIVES: Musculoskeletal pain (MSP) conditions are a leading cause of morbidity worldwide and a common reason for ED presentation. Little is currently known about non-traumatic MSP (NTMSP) presenting to EDs. The present study described the prevalence and management practices of NTMSP in EDs.
METHODS: The design was a retrospective clinical audit in two hospital EDs in Western Australia covering 3 months beginning 1 January 2016. We defined NTMSP as pain of musculoskeletal origin occurring in the absence of external force or excessive physical loading. The outcomes measured included: patient, condition and hospital-episode characteristics, as well as management practices. Management practices were compared to recommended care derived from guideline recommendations. These included: assessment for red flags and psychosocial risk factors, appropriate use of diagnostic imaging, provision of patient education, administration and prescription of analgesic medication, and assessment of risk factors for opioid-related harm.
RESULTS: Eight hundred and eighty-eight patients were included in the present study. NTMSP accounted for 3.0% of all ED presentations. According to clinician documentation, red flag and psychosocial assessments were recorded in 73.3 and 10.5% of patients. Forty-one percent of patients were referred for imaging, of which 39.7% were inconsistent with guideline recommendations. Education was recorded 52.0% of the time. At least one opioid medication was administered to 55.3% of patients and there was no documented assessment of risk factors for opioid-related harm.
CONCLUSIONS: NTMSP is a relatively common reason for ED presentation. Documented management practices are discordant with guideline recommendations. Strategies to improve the concordance between management and guideline recommendations are needed.