Emergency management of pediatric fractures and dislocations requires effective analgesia, yet children's pain is often undertreated. We compared the safety and efficacy of fentanyl- versus ketamine- based protocols.


Patients 5 to 15 years of age needing emergency fracture or joint reduction (FR) were randomized to receive intravenous midazolam plus either fentanyl (F/M) or ketamine (K/M). Measures of efficacy were observational distress scores and self- and parental-report. Measures of safety were frequency of abnormalities in and need for support of cardiopulmonary function and other adverse effects.


During FR, K/M subjects (n = 130) had lower distress scores and parental ratings of pain and anxiety than did F/M subjects (n = 130). Although both regimens equally facilitated reductions, deep sedation, and procedural amnesia, orthopedists favored K/M. Recovery was 14 minutes longer for K/M.

Fewer K/M subjects had hypoxia (6% vs 25%), needed breathing cues (1% vs 12%), or required oxygen (10% vs 20%) than did F/M subjects. Two K/M subjects required assisted ventilation briefly. More K/M subjects vomited. Adverse emergence reactions were rare but equivalent between regimens.


During emergency pediatric orthopedic procedures, K/M is more effective than F/M for pain and anxiety relief. Respiratory complications occurred less frequently with K/M, but respiratory support may be needed with either regimen. Both regimens facilitate reduction, produce amnesia, and rarely cause emergence delirium. Vomiting is more frequent and recovery more prolonged with K/M.

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