Patterns of Palliation: A Review of Casualties That Received Pain Management Before Reaching Role 2 in Afghanistan

Ian L. Hudson, Amanda M. Staudt, Matthew Burgess, Carmen Hinojosa-Laborde, Steven G. Schauer, Ryan K. Newberry, Kathy L. Ryan, Christopher A. VanFosson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


INTRODUCTION: Battlefield pain management changed markedly during the first 20 years of the Global War on Terror. Morphine, long the mainstay of combat analgesia, diminished in favor of fentanyl and ketamine for military pain control, but the options are not hemodynamically or psychologically equivalent. Understanding patterns of prehospital analgesia may reveal further opportunities for combat casualty care improvement. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Using Department of Defense Trauma Registry data for the Afghanistan conflict from 2005 to 2018, we examined 2,402 records of prehospital analgesia administration to assess temporal trends in medication choice and proportions receiving analgesia, including subanalysis of a cohort screened for an indication with minimal contraindication for analgesia. We further employed frequency matching to explore the presence of disparities in analgesia by casualty affiliation. RESULTS: Proportions of documented analgesia increased throughout the study period, from 0% in 2005 to 70.6% in 2018. Afghan casualties had the highest proportion of documented analgesia (53.0%), versus U.S. military (31.9%), civilian/other (23.3%), and non-U.S. military (19.3%). Fentanyl surpassed morphine in the frequency of administration in 2012. The median age of those receiving ketamine was higher (30 years) than those receiving fentanyl (26 years) or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (23 years). Among the frequency-matched subanalysis, the odds ratio for ketamine administration with Afghan casualties was 1.84 (95% CI, 1.30-2.61). CONCLUSIONS: We observed heterogeneity of prehospital patient care across patient affiliation groups, suggesting possible opportunities for improvement toward an overall best practice system. General increase in documented prehospital pain management likely reflects efforts toward complete documentation, as well as improved options for analgesia. Current combat casualty care documentation does not include any standardized pain scale.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)108-116
Number of pages9
JournalMilitary medicine
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Jan 4 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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