Regional not racial difference in use of pain medications in children

June 26, 2003

A study to be published in the July 2003 Annals of Emergency Medicine finds no difference in how emergency physicians prescribe pain medication to children in different racial and ethnic groups. However, they did find regional differences in the administration of these medications. (Effect of Ethnicity and Race on the Use of Pain Medications in Children With Long Bone Fractures in the Emergency Department, p. 41)

Of 3.9 million children studied who sought emergency care for long bone fractures---including non-Hispanic white (792), black (111) and Hispanic white (127) patients---researchers at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee found no significant differences in the administration of analgesic medications or of narcotics (opioid analgesics) among different racial and ethnic groups.

However, researchers note regional differences in how pain medications are administered to children. Those who received pain medication for long bone fractures in the South and West received narcotics more often than children in the Northeast. Children in the South also received pain medications more often than in all other parts of the country. Dr. Kenneth Yen, the study's lead author, said he does not have an explanation for the regional differences, but pointed out the findings indicate an area needing further research.
Annals of Emergency Medicine is the peer-reviewed journal of the American College of Emergency Physicians, a national medical specialty organization with nearly 23,000 members. The preceding highlights from the July 2003 issue are not intended to substitute for articles as sources of information. To obtain copies of the articles or to speak with study authors, contact Colleen Hughes at the telephone number above or by e-mail at

American College of Emergency Physicians

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