Pain Assessment in INTensive care (PAINT)

Kemp, H.I. et al. Anaesthesia. Published online: 19 February 2017

Pain is a common and distressing symptom experienced by intensive care patients. Assessing pain in this environment is challenging, and published guidelines have been inconsistently implemented. The Pain Assessment in INTensive care (PAINT) study aimed to evaluate the frequency and type of physician pain assessments with respect to published guidelines.

The likelihood of receiving a physician pain assessment was affected by the following factors: the number of nursing assessments performed; whether the patient was admitted as a surgical patient; the presence of tracheal tube or tracheostomy; and the length of stay in ICU. Physician-documented pain assessments in the majority of participating ICUs were infrequent and did not utilise recommended behavioural pain assessment tools. Further research to identify factors influencing physician pain assessment behaviour in ICU, such as human factors or cultural attitudes, is urgently needed.

Read the full abstract here

Improved decision support in the assessment and management of pain for people with dementia in hospital

Closs, S.J. et al. NIHR. Published online: October 2016

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It is difficult for people with dementia to communicate their pain to health-care professionals. Pain often has damaging effects on mental and physical health, and research has shown that pain is often poorly managed in people with dementia in hospital.

We aimed to develop a new system that would help staff to manage pain. To this end, we first identified any accurate and reliable pain assessment tools available for use with hospital patients who have dementia. We then explored how pain is currently recognised, assessed and managed in people with dementia in four hospitals in England and Scotland.

We found 28 pain assessment tools which had been reviewed, but none had been tested rigorously. Seven had potentially useful features, but no single tool could be recommended for wider use. The 11 hospital wards studied were all different, with their own complex pain assessment and management practices. Information from different staff and carers was produced at different times and in different formats, and was recorded in separate documents. This information was mentally pulled together into an ‘overall picture’ of pain by each staff member for each individual patient.

We suggest developing a combined education package and electronic health record, the Pain And Dementia Decision Support (PADDS) intervention, to help staff recognise, assess and manage pain. This should incorporate carer input, staff narratives, pain histories, intensity assessments, medication and other interventions provided, and present an overall picture of pain in an integrated and easily accessible visual format. This will require thorough development and testing.

Read the full report here

Young children’s ability to report on past, future, and hypothetical pain states: a cognitive-developmental perspective

Jaaniste, T. et al. (2016) Pain. 157(11). pp. 2399–2409

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Children are at times asked by clinicians or researchers to rate their pain associated with their past, future, or hypothetical experiences. However, little consideration is typically given to the cognitive-developmental requirements of such pain reports. Consequently, these pain assessment tasks may exceed the abilities of some children, potentially resulting in biased or random responses. This could lead to the over- or under-treatment of children’s pain.

This review provides an overview of factors, and specifically the cognitive-developmental prerequisites, that may affect a child’s ability to report on nonpresent pain states, such as past, future, or hypothetical pain experiences. Children’s ability to report on past pains may be influenced by developmental (age, cognitive ability), contextual (mood state, language used by significant others), affective and pain-related factors.

The ability to mentally construct and report on future painful experiences may be shaped by memory of past experiences, information provision and learning, contextual factors, knowledge about oneself, cognitive coping style, and cognitive development. Hypothetical pain reports are sometimes used in the development and validation of pain assessment scales, as a tool in assessing cognitive-developmental and social-developmental aspects of children’s reports of pain, and for the purposes of training children to use self-report scales. Rating pain associated with hypothetical pain scenarios requires the ability to recognize pain in another person and depends on the child’s experience with pain.

Enhanced understanding of cognitive-developmental requirements of young children’s pain reports could lead to improved understanding, assessment, and treatment of pediatric pain.

Read the abstract here

Pain assessment in children

Anaesthesia & Intensive Care Medicine

Acute pain in children can occur following trauma and injury or secondary to medical and surgical intervention. Before acute pain can be effectively treated, it must be accurately assessed. In spite of many years of research to enhance our understanding of pain, the assessment of pain in children continues to be a challenge and is often inconsistent and suboptimal in many organizations.

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image shows micrograph of Losartan and Lidocaine. source: Lars Bech, Wellcome Images//CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

Pain and its perception are multi-factorial, hence an approach to pain assessment and treatment must also be multi-faceted and multidisciplinary. Painful experiences are dynamic, with huge inter- and intra-individual variation; therefore pain assessment tools must be adaptable, reproducible and accurate to accommodate such variation.

This article outlines the different tools available for pain assessment in infants and children.

Brand, K. & Thorpe, B. Pain assessment in children Anaesthesia & Intensive Care Medicine. Available online 20 April 2016.