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Am J Emerg Med. 2004 Nov;22(7):582-5.

Mandated pain scales improve frequency of ED analgesic administration.

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Department of Emergency Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, MA, USA.


A retrospective study design was used to determine the effect of introducing a mandated verbal numeric pain scale on the incidence and timing of analgesic administration in the ED. Consecutive patients presenting with renal colic, extremity trauma, headache, ophthalmologic trauma, and soft tissue injury were included. 521 encounters were reviewed before and 479 encounters after the introduction of the pain scale. Groups were similar in baseline characteristics. Analgesic use increased from 25% to 36% (p < 0.001), and analgesics were administered more rapidly after the scale was introduced (113 minutes vs. 152 minutes, p = 0.09). Analgesic use correlated with pain severity. Patients undergoing diagnostic testing were less likely to receive analgesics, especially when presenting with a headache (p < 0.001). We conclude that use of a pain scale at triage significantly increases use of analgesia, and shortens the time till its administration. Patients undergoing diagnostic workups were less likely to receive analgesia.

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