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Ibuprofen Rated Best for Pain of Broken Arms

TUESDAY Aug. 18, 2009 -- For a child with a broken arm, ibuprofen is as effective at treating pain as acetaminophen with codeine, U.S. researchers report.

"Our study calls into question the practice of using acetaminophen with codeine as a rescue medicine if ibuprofen fails to treat fracture pain for children," the study's leader, Dr. Amy Drendel, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the Medical College of Wisconsin, said in a school news release.

She and her colleagues studied 336 children, ages 4 to 18, who were treated for simple arm fractures and discharged from the Children's Hospital of Wisconsin emergency department between August 2003 and September 2007. The children were prescribed either ibuprofen or acetaminophen with codeine for their pain once they were home.

The study found no overall difference in the number of cases of pain treatment failure in the two groups but did find that those who were given ibuprofen reported better functional outcomes and higher satisfaction than those given acetaminophen with codeine, and fewer had adverse effects -- 29.5 percent vs. 50.9 percent.

Nearly 90 percent of the children who took ibuprofen said they would prefer the same treatment for future fractures, compared with 72 percent of those who took acetaminophen with codeine.

"The majority of children with simple arm fractures have pain at home significant enough to result in analgesic administration, and our study helps clinicians make an informed decision about what medication will work best for children with these injuries once they are sent home," said Drendel, who is also a pediatric emergency medicine specialist at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin.

The study is in the Aug. 18 issue of the Annals of Emergency Medicine.

More information

The Nemours Foundation has more about children and fractures.

Posted: August 2009


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