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Treating Persistent Pain in the Elderly: How Do We Proceed?

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Objective: To describe a performance improvement initiative conducted in accordance with the American Geriatrics Society (AGS) guideline regarding pharmacological management of persistent pain in older adults.

Settings: Medical units of a tertiary care teaching hospital.

Practice Description: Elderly patients were included if treated for conditions associated with persistent pain.

Practice Innovation: Using three phases, the pharmacological management of persistent pain in older adults was evaluated before and after health care provider education on the AGS guideline recommendations. Educational seminars, in-service training, and handout materials focused on addressing specific shortfalls identified during the initial evaluation.

Main Outcome Measurements: Appropriate use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents (NSAIDs) and cyclooxygenase-2 selective inhibitors (coxibs), utilization of proper pain assessment tools, types of opioids used, and associated adverse effects.

Results: A total of 50 patients with comparable demographics were included in each phase. Following education, there was an improvement in the appropriate use of pain-assessment tools in cognitively impaired older adults. There was a trend toward improvement in the use of NSAIDs and coxibs, but there was no change in practice regarding the frequency of opioid use, combining long- and short-acting opioid preparations, or preventing opioid-induced constipation.

Conclusion: Although findings from this study aided in recognizing areas for improvement in the management of persistent pain in older adults, further education of health care professionals is needed to ensure the safe and effective management of persistent pain.

Keywords: AGS = American Geriatrics Society; Analgesic; COX-2 = Cyclooxygenase-2; CV = Cardiovascular; Coxibs = Cyclooxygenase-2 selective inhibitors; GI = Gastrointestinal; Geriatric; NSAIDs = Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs; OTC = Over-the-counter; Opioid analgesics; Pain; Pain management; Persistent pain

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2013-08-01

More about this publication?
  • The Consultant Pharmacist® is the official peer-reviewed journal of the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists. It is dedicated exclusively to the medication needs of the elderly in all settings, including adult day care, ambulatory care, assisted living, community, hospice, and nursing facilities. This award-winning journal is a member benefit of ASCP. Individuals who are not members and wish to receive The Consultant Pharmacist® will want to consider joining ASCP.
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