New inhaled analgesic can save hospital time and resources

Image of people placing giant building blocks which could spell health to show New inhaled analgesic can save hospital time and resources

Penthrox(methoxyflurane), an inhaled analgesic recently introduced to the UK, can save more than one hour per procedure in hospital emergency departments on average – allowing more patients to be seen and potentially saving money for the NHS, a new study reveals.

Penthrox, has been widely used in Australia and New Zealand for many years. However, it is used in fewer than half of UK emergency departments mainly due to staff unfamiliarity with the treatment.

Now researchers from St Mary’s Hospital, in London, part of Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, have found that the non-opioid medicine, which is self-administered under the supervision of a person trained in its administration, can save 71 minutes on average in treating appropriate emergency department (ED) patients, compared to usual pain-killing techniques, with the added benefit of saving up to 50% on the cost of treatment per patient depending on the type of trauma injury.

The results echo recent findings from other hospitals which show that patients treated with methoxyflurane spend significantly less time in ED compared to those treated with standard care. These results come at a time when the NHS is facing exceptional pressure and demonstrate how the use of Penthrox as a first-line analgesic for appropriate patients can free up resources including staff and equipment required to treat patients compared with standard treatments.

Over the course of six months, the researchers, supported by A&E Consultant Dr George Bailey, looked at length of stay in the Emergency Department for patients with moderate or severe trauma pain who received methoxyflurane compared with those who received standard care.

Adult patients with moderate to severe trauma pain and Glasgow Coma Score of 15 were included in the evaluation. Patients in both the methoxyflurane and standard care cohorts were matched for analytical purposes based on patient characteristics, including age group, gender and injury type and previous medical history, to limit any potential for bias. There were particular gains for patients suffering from a dislocated shoulder, where methoxyflurane patients saved over three hours in treatment time.

The study, published in the journal Advances in Therapy, also examined the different treatment costs and concluded that methoxyflurane may save up to 50% on the cost of treatment per patient depending on the type of trauma injury. The researchers explained that Penthrox can negate the need for procedural sedation, which requires an intravenous line into the arm, a resus bed, which are often not immediately free, and also requires the time of three staff to carry out the procedure. By contrast, Penthrox could be administered in a chair or on a trolley and only required one or, sometimes two, staff members depending on the procedure, as Penthrox is self-administered by the patient.

The researchers commented: “Long waiting times, slow discharge times and overcrowding are affecting almost every ED in the UK, and the situation does not show any signs of significant improvement at present.”

They concluded: “This evaluation demonstrated that the early use of methoxyflurane can positively impact length of stay within EDs and provide effective pain relief for patients.”

Commenting on the findings, Dr George Bailey said: “During our evaluation the use of Penthrox was well received by our staff and patients. Being able to offer early fast acting pain relief is essential and we were pleased to find the additional benefit of reducing time patients spent in the ED compared to standard care.”

Dr Dennise Broderick, Managing Director and President of Galen, that markets Penthrox in the UK, added: “We all know the immense pressures facing trauma services in the UK, exacerbated in these exceptional circumstances. We welcome these latest findings, which reinforce what has already been long accepted in other parts of the world – that Penthrox can help improve the throughput of patients in A&E departments by offering an effective means of pain control for patients that is simple to use and fast-acting. We’re committed to providing education to help hospital teams make use of this particular innovation in the coming weeks and months.”

Penthrox consists of a green-coloured tube containing a fixed measure of methoxyflurane and can be self-administered by patients. It can provide up to 60 minutes of pain relief per treatment. As a single-use product that requires no canisters, additional breathing masks or tubes and is disposed of after patient use via a sealable plastic bag, it greatly minimises the potential of inadvertently spreading infection across a department or between buildings.