Pain Prevalence, Intensity, Assessment and Management in a Hospitalized Pediatric Population

      Abstract

      New research, regulatory guidelines, and practice initiatives have improved pain management in infants, children, and adolescents, but obstacles remain. The aim of this study was to identify the prevalence and demographics of pain, as well as pain management practice patterns in hospitalized children in a tertiary-care university hospital. We prospectively collected data including patient demographics, presence/absence and location of pain, pain intensity, pain assessment documentation, analgesic use, side effects of analgesic therapy, and patient/family satisfaction. Two hundred male (58%) and female, medical and surgical (61%) patients, averaging 9 ± 6.2 years were studied. Pain was common (86%) and often moderate to severe (40%). Surgical patients reported pain more frequently when enrolled than did medical patients (99% vs. 65%). Female gender, age ≥5 years, and Caucasian race were all associated with higher mean pain scores. Furthermore, females and Caucasian children consumed more opioids than males and non-Caucasians. Identified obstacles to optimal analgesic management include lack of documented physician pain assessment (<5%), a high prevalence of “as needed” analgesic dosing, frequent opioid-induced side effects (44% nausea and vomiting, 27% pruritus), and patient/family dissatisfaction with pain management (2%-7%). The data demonstrated that despite a concentrated focus on improving pain management over the past decade, pain remains common in hospitalized children. Identification of patient populations and characteristics that predispose to increased pain (e.g., female, Caucasian, postoperative patient) as well as obstacles to analgesic management provide a focus for the development of targeted interventions and research to further improve care.
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