An analgesic is a drug that relieves pain. Analgesia is the absence of pain. Analgesics are used to produce analgesia.
There are many sources for patient pain and discomfort within a critical care environment. Procedural pain, invasive tubes and bed-rest are examples of causes for patient discomfort. Pain is monitored continuously in CCTC and is treated as needed. Pain medication requirements vary from patient to patient.
We consider patient comfort a top priority! We assess our patient's for pain continously throughout the day and night. Our first priority is to ask the patient to tell us about their pain. If the patient cannot tell us, we assess them for pain using a validated pain tool to provide objective assessment.
Narcotics are the most commonly used pain relievers in CCTC. They work quickly and provide effective relief for moderate and severe pain. Fentanyl and Hydromorphone (Dilaudid) are the most commonly used narcotics in the CCTC. These are usually given directly into the patient's bloodstream though an intravenous. Intravenous medications are used because they work immediately, provide more consistent pain relief, and eliminate the need to pick the patient with needles.
Intravenous doses that are given intermittently are called "boluses" (Image 1). An intravenous bolus works immediately, and provides pain relief for a short period of time. If a patient has severe pain, or requires frequent boluses administered, pain medications may be given by continuous intravenous infusion by an infusion pump.
As patients begin to recover from an acute illness, patients may be switched to oral medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), non-steroidal anti-inflammatories or oral narcotics. They may be given into a feeding tube if the patient is unable to swallow (for example, due to a breathing tube).