Medical Minute: Nitrous Oxide

Each year, hundreds of thousands of children go to the emergency room with broken bones. The painful procedure to set those bones before they're put in a cast can be excruciating. Emergency room physicians can now set fractures with only a fraction of the pain.

Dana and Terry Lawrence have their hands full with five kids, Brittany, Courtney, Drew, Ethan and Austin. It's that adventurous spirit that landed Austin in the emergency room. He didn't land the cartwheel but did break his arm.

"There's no question that broken bones are one of the more painful emergencies that we treat," says Dr. Jan Luhmann.

Dr. Jan Luhmann says there's a myth that children don't experience as much pain as adults.

"Adults are much more likely, somewhere around two to one, to get pain medications for fracture pain."

When medication is given to kids, it often comes in a needle. Now, nitrous oxide may be a better option. Dr. Luhmann delivers the laughing gas on a kid-size scale. It doesn't require deep breaths like the adult delivery system, and the masks are sprayed with good-smelling scents. Most importantly, it relieves pain.

"It reduces pain in mild to moderate situations when it's used alone, and it reduces anxiety, and it reduces memory of the event."

Austin got the gas and handled the pain of his broken arm well.

"They pulled, and they tugged, and they mashed, and just watching it, it looked kind of painful. He was just watching TV. You could tell he was relaxed."

But, he didn't stay relaxed for long. He's now back to full-speed.

For more information, contact:

Diane Duke Williams

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