Does IV Acetaminophen Reduce Opioid Requirement in Pediatric Emergency Department Patients with Acute Sickle Cell Crises?

Study objective We evaluated the ability of intravenous (IV) acetaminophen to reduce the amount of opioid medication administered in pediatric patients with sickle cell disease (SCD) having vaso-occlusive crisis (VOC) in an emergency department (ED) setting.
METHODS This was a prospective, randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled trial at an academic urban pediatric ED. Participants included patients with SCD, aged 4-16 years, with VOC pain. All patients received 0.1 mg/kg dose of IV morphine, 0.5 mg/kg ketorolac, or both. Patients were randomized to receive either 15 mg/kg of IV acetaminophen or placebo. Patients were reassessed every 30 minutes to see if additional opioid doses were indicated to a maximum of 3 doses. The total morphine given, pain scores, rates of admissions, 72-hour return visits, and adverse events were assessed for each group.
RESULTS Of 71 subjects randomized, 35 patients in the acetaminophen group and 36 patients in the control group were analyzed. Baseline characteristics and initial pain scores were similar in both groups. The mean total amount morphine given was 8.6 mg (95% CI 6.5-10.8) in the acetaminophen group and 8.0 mg (95% CI 5.9 - 10.2) in the placebo group. The mean total cumulative morphine dosing was 0.2 mg/kg (95% CI 0.1-0.2) in the acetaminophen group and 0.2 mg/kg (95% CI 0.1-0.2) in the control group. The mean pain score at time of disposition was 5.5 (95% CI 4.3 - 6.6) in the acetaminophen group and 5.2 (95%CI 4.2 - 6.3) in the placebo group. There were no clinical or statistically significant differences between the rates of admission, 72-hour return visits, or adverse events.
CONCLUSION In this study, patients who received IV acetaminophen did not receive less morphine than patients in the placebo group. Disposition pain scores for the 2 groups were also equivalent. We conclude that IV acetaminophen, when used in addition to morphine for pediatric sickle cell VOC pain, does not provide an opioid sparing effect. Further searches for adjunctive non-addictive pain medicines are indicated.

as reported in: Acad Emerg Med. 2020 Oct 6 [Epub ahead of print]