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Pain Research and Management
Volume 19 (2014), Issue 4, Pages 198-204
Original Article

Hospitalized Children Continue to Report Undertreated and Preventable Pain

Kathryn A Birnie,1,2 Christine T Chambers,1,2,3 Conrad V Fernandez,2,3 Paula A Forgeron,4 Margot A Latimer,2,5 Patrick J McGrath,1,2,3,6 Elizabeth A Cummings,2,3 and G Allen Finley1,2,7

1Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, Dalhousie University, Canada
2IWK Health Centre, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
3Department of Pediatrics, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
4School of Nursing, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
5Departments of Nursing, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
6Psychiatry, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
7Anesthesia, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

Copyright © 2014 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


BACKGROUND: Published reports of substantial rates of moderate to severe pediatric inpatient pain tend to overlook lower-intensity pain that may be clinically significant.

OBJECTIVE: To document the prevalence of clinically significant pain in pediatric inpatients by considering the pain threshold at which each child desires intervention, and to assess sources of pain, pain assessment and intervention, and relationships among demographic and medical variables to reported pain.

METHODS: Inpatients or their parents on four hospital units during four nonconsecutive days were eligible for inclusion. Interviews (76 parents; 31 patients) captured experiences of 107 inpatients (three weeks to 18 years of age) including current, worst and usual pain, pain treatment thresholds, sources of pain and help received during the previous 24 h. A chart review provided data regarding demographic and medical variables, and pain assessment and management.

RESULTS: In total, 94% of patients experienced pain. The prevalence of clinically significant pain was 8% (current), 62% (worst) and 24% (usual). Current and worst pain was primarily procedural, and usual pain was primarily disease related. On average, patients had 4.03 documented pain assessments over 24 h. Caregiver responses (eg, reassurance) and nonpharmacological interventions were frequently reported (>90%) but infrequently documented (<50%); 66% of patients received pharmacological interventions. Younger patients received fewer pain assessments and opioids. Patients with clinically significant usual pain were more likely to have undergone surgery, and receive more pain assessments and interventions.

CONCLUSIONS: While recent studies suggest reduced pain in pediatric inpatients, the present findings reveal a continued high frequency of undertreated pain. High rates of procedural pain are preventable and should be targeted given the underutilization of pain management strategies.