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Scand J Caring Sci. 2010 Dec;24(4):764-71. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-6712.2010.00774.x.

Documented assessments and treatments of patients seeking emergency care because of pain.

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The Emergency Department, Karolinska University Hospital, Solna, Sweden.



Pain is one of the most frequent symptoms for which people seek emergency care. Studies show that pain management in emergency clinics is insufficient. No previous studies regarding pain documentation at emergency clinics in the Nordic countries have been undertaken.


The main purpose was to investigate the extent to which pain assessment, pain treatment and pain relief were documented in patient records.


Patient records were reviewed using a study-specific protocol.


Emergency unit at a Swedish university hospital.


A total of 698 patient records randomly selected were reviewed using a study-specific protocol. According to Swedish law and the university hospital's quality and safety guidelines, there should be a note in each patient record regarding whether or not the patient was in pain on arrival. The guideline stresses the importance of using patient self-assessment by a visual analogue scale (VAS).


In 361/698 (52%) records, there was a note by a doctor or a nurse as to whether or not the patient had been experiencing pain on arrival. In 319 of these 361 records (88%), a full pain assessment had been documented. In 15/319 (5%) cases, the pain assessment included patient VAS assessment. In 54/319 (17%) patient records, a note regarding pain treatment was found. Significantly more notes regarding pain treatment were found in the records with an initial documented pain assessment, when compared with the records without any such assessment (p < 0.01). In the 54 records with notes regarding pain treatment, 10 (19%) included documentation regarding the effect of the treatment.


The results show an alarming lack of documentation regarding pain assessments, pain treatments and follow-ups. This is in marked contrast to Swedish law, which clearly stipulates the responsibility of health care staff to document information relevant to providing safe care. Prompt action to improve pain documentation is warranted.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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