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Br J Anaesth. 2004 Feb;92(2):235-7.

Pain on medical wards in a district general hospital.

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  • 1Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital, Barrack Rd, Exeter, EX2 5DW, UK. philippa@dixracwil.demon.co.uk



Little attention has been paid to pain on medical wards, with publications limited to the management of surgical patients. We wanted to establish the prevalence and severity of pain in the general medical setting, and how this compared with other clinical specialties.


All consenting adult in-patients were assessed daily for 5 days. Patients recorded the occurrence and severity of pain, and whether their pain was bearable. The pain team reviewed patients with unbearable pain.


1594 questionnaires were completed, representing 54% of the target population. 887 patients reported pain, 17% with pain scores over 6, and 10% with unbearable pain. The distribution of pain was similar for all ward types with 52% of patients on medical wards reporting pain. Of these, 20% reported severe pain and 12% unbearable pain. When patients with pain scores over 6 were analysed by consultant specialty, elderly care, general medicine, and general surgery scored highest. In each specialty 20-25% of patients with pain reported a pain score over 6. In patients reviewed by the pain team, reasons for poor analgesia included inadequate information, pain assessment, analgesic prescribing, and administration and patient reporting.


Patients in all hospital specialities experience pain. Until the issue of pain management in medical patients is fully addressed the situation will not improve.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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