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Current Use of Pain Scores in Dutch Intensive Care Units: A Postal Survey in the Netherlands

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BACKGROUND:

Pain is a common problem for critically ill patients treated in the intensive care unit (ICU) and can have serious consequences. For this reason, the appropriate recognition and treatment of pain is of extreme importance. However, pain assessment in critically ill patients can be challenging because these patients are often unable to self-report. To identify attitudes and practices regarding the assessment and management of pain in ICU patients unable to self-report, we surveyed all adult ICUs in the Netherlands.

METHODS:

A multicenter, exploratory survey was sent by mail to all adult ICUs in the Netherlands.

RESULTS:

Eighty-four of 107 ICUs returned the questionnaire for a response rate of 79%. In patients able to self-report, 94% (n = 79; 95% confidence interval [CI], 86.7%–98%) of the ICUs used a standardized pain score. Visual Analog Scale and Numerical Rating Scale were used in 57% (n = 48; 99.3% CI, 41%–72%) and 48% (n = 40; 99.3% CI, 33%–64%), respectively. Nonteaching hospitals used pain assessment tools more often than teaching hospitals (P = 0.012). In patients not able to self-report, pain assessment tools were used in 19% (n = 16) of the ICUs. In the ICUs that used behaviorally based scoring systems, the Critical Care Pain Observation Tool and Behavioral Pain Scale (BPS) were used in 6% (n = 5; 99.5% CI, 1.1%–17%) and 5% (n = 4; 99.5% CI, 0.1%–15%), respectively. Among Dutch nurses, nursing opinion was considered the gold standard assessment in 36% (n = 30; 98.8% CI, 23%–50%) of the respondents, even when a patient was able to self-report and pain scales were used. In patients unable to self-report, nurses judged themselves to be more accurate than a behavioral pain assessment tool in 98% (n = 82; 98.8% CI, 89.7%–99.9%) of the patients.

CONCLUSIONS:

In the Netherlands, most ICUs used a standardized pain score in patients able to self-report. Nonteaching hospitals used pain assessment tools more often than teaching hospitals. In patients unable to self-report, pain is not routinely measured with a validated behavioral pain assessment tool. Almost all nurses in our survey felt that their assessment of patient pain was more accurate than behavioral pain assessment tools in patients unable to self-report. More research is needed to identify factors preventing more widespread acceptance of validated behavioral pain scores in patients unable to self-report.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: February 1, 2016

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