"Pain associated with long bone fractures can be pretty severe," lead author Dr. Marion Sills of the University of Colorado School of Medicine said in a statement. "But crowded emergency departments are impacting the delivery of care on many levels, including the delivery of pain medication."
Sills and colleagues studied 1,229 patients treated for broken arms and legs in the emergency department of an academic children's hospital during one year. Broken arms and legs are common among children and very painful.
The study, published in the journal Academic Emergency Medicine, found that patients were 4 percent to 47 percent less likely to receive timely care, and 3 percent to 17 percent less likely to receive effective care when crowding was at the 90th percentile than at the 10th percentile, when there is less crowding.
"We found that crowding can lower the likelihood of timely treatment by as much as 47 percent and raise the likelihood of non-treatment by as much as 17 percent," Sills said. "The relationship between emergency department crowding and pain treatment is not unexpected. When the emergency department gets busier, staff may be less responsive to the needs of individual patients, and as a result, patients have a higher likelihood of non-treatment and delays in treatment."