Pain Assessment in Pediatric Emergency Departments: A National Survey.

Academic Article


  • OBJECTIVE: Accurate and consistent assessment of pain is essential in the pediatric emergency setting. Despite recommendations for formal assessment protocols, current data are lacking on pain assessment in pediatric emergency departments (EDs) and, specifically, whether appropriate tools are being used for different age groups. Our aim was to determine the status of pain assessment in US pediatric EDs. METHODS: We disseminated an online cross-sectional survey (after piloting) to pediatric EDs within the Children's Hospital Association. Responses were analyzed for each question owing to incomplete responders. We report descriptive statistics, with categorical variables compared with χ (P < 0.05 considered statistically significant). RESULTS: From 120 pediatric EDs, we received 57 responses (48%). Most respondents (28/49, 57%) were from freestanding pediatric centers. All 57 EDs (100%) performed formal pain assessments, with 31 (63%) of 49 using an ED-specific protocol. Freestanding children's hospitals were more likely to have ED-specific protocols (21/31, 68%) than nonfreestanding (10/31, 32%) (P = 0.04). Among 56 responders, 100% stated that nurses are tasked with assessing pain. For children 0 to 2 years, 29 (54%) of 54 used the Face, Legs, Activity, Cry, Consolability scale. Numerical scales were increasingly used with older ages: 3 to 4 years, 40 (80%) of 50; 5 to 10 years, 49 (98%) of 50; and 11 to 21 years, 50 (100%) of 50. CONCLUSIONS: In contrast to prior research, US pediatric EDs are routinely assessing pain with scales that are mostly appropriate for their respective age groups. Further research is needed to explore barriers to implementing appropriate pain ratings for all children and, ultimately, how these assessments impact the care of children in the emergency setting.
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  • Haupt J; Shah N; Fifolt M; Jorge E; Glaeser P; Zisette J; Pruitt C