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Quicker pain relief for victims of accidents

SCDF, SGH in on-the-spot trial using 2 drugs that come in portable packages
The Straits Times - March 21, 2014
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Quicker pain relief for victims of accidents

INJURED victims will be able to get quicker pain relief when a trial begins to administer drugs right at the site of the accident.

Patients used to have to wait until they are moved to the ambulance before pain-relief treatment starts.

This means bearing with the pain for "quite some time", said Lieutenant-Colonel Dr Ng Yih Yng of the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF).

The change has been made possible through the trial use of two drugs. One is Penthrox which is breathed in via an inhaler, while the second, called Tramadol, is injected into the bloodstream.

These drugs come in portable packages which make them easy to carry to the scene of the accident. They are a change from the nitrous oxide gas which comes in 8kg cylinders, about the size of a fire extinguisher.

The cylinders' bulk makes nitrous oxide gas impractical, said Lt-Col Dr Ng.

"We rarely take them out of the ambulance, because we're already carrying so much equipment," he said.

Typically, a paramedic would have about 15-20kg of trauma equipment on him and the cylinders of nitrous oxide are usually left behind in the vehicle.

The Singapore General Hospital (SGH) and SCDF are working together in this year-long trial which will involve studying data from 400 limb injury cases.

To test the effectiveness of the drugs, patients will be asked to rate their own pain at five-minute intervals.

With the two new drugs, pain relief can occur as soon as paramedics arrive on the scene. In the case of Penthrox, this could be within a matter of seconds, said Associate Professor Marcus Ong, the study's lead investigator.

About 180 SCDF paramedics have already been trained in administering the new drugs. The plan is to phase out the use of nitrous oxide gas altogether.

"Our priorities are to save lives, then relieve suffering," said Prof Ong.

"Once we establish that the patient is stable and their life is not in danger, the next step is relieving their pain."

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