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Symptoms and side effects in chronic non-cancer pain: patient report vs. systematic assessment

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Relieving distressing symptoms and managing the side effects of analgesics are essential in order to improve quality of life and functional capacity in chronic non-cancer pain patients. A quick, reliable and valid tool for assessing symptoms and side effects is needed in order to optimize treatment. We aimed to investigate the symptoms reported by chronic non-cancer pain patients after open-ended questioning vs. a systematic assessment using a list of symptoms, and to assess whether the patients could distinguish between the symptoms and the side effects induced by analgesics. Methods:

Patients treated with either opioids and/or adjuvant analgesics were asked to report their symptoms spontaneously, followed by a 41-item investigator-developed symptom checklist. A control group also filled in the checklist. Results:

A total of 62 patients and 64 controls participated in the study. The numbers of symptoms reported by the patients (9.9 ± 5.9) were significantly higher than those reported by the controls (3.2 ± 3.9) (P<0.001). In the patient group, the number of spontaneously reported symptoms (1.3 ± 1.4) was significantly lower than the symptoms reported when using the symptom checklist (9.9 ± 5.9) (P<0.001). The six most frequently symptoms reported by the patients were: (1) Fatigue; (2) Memory deficits; (3) Dry mouth; (4) Concentration deficits; (5) Sweating; and (6) Weight gain. Out of the six most frequently reported symptoms, the share of side effects due to analgesics was: (1) Dry mouth (42%); (2) Sweating (34%); (3) Weight gain (29%); (4) Memory deficits (24%); (5) Fatigue (19%); and (6) Concentration deficits (19%). Conclusion:

The number of symptoms reported using systematic assessment was eightfold higher than those reported voluntarily. Fatigue, cognitive dysfunction, dry mouth, sweating and weight gain were the most frequently reported. The patients reported the side effects of their analgesics to contribute substantially to the reported symptoms.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Multidisciplinary Pain Centre, Køge University Hospital, Køge, Denmark 2: Department of Pharmacology and Pharmacotherapy, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark 3: Multidisciplinary Pain Centre, Copenhagen University Hospital, Copenhagen, Denmark 4: Section of Acute Pain Management and Palliative Medicine, Copenhagen University Hospital, Copenhagen, Denmark

Publication date: 2011-01-01

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