Pain treatment thresholds in children after major surgery

Clin J Pain. 2001 Jun;17(2):173-7. doi: 10.1097/00002508-200106000-00010.


Objective: The objectives of this study were to use a self-report pain scale to examine child pain treatment thresholds after major surgery (i.e., the level of pain they are comfortable with before requiring analgesia), as well as to examine agreement between mother-, nurse-, and child-rated pain treatment thresholds.

Methods: Twenty-five children aged 6 to 16 years were interviewed for 3 consecutive days after major surgery. Subjects used the Faces Pain Scale to rate their current pain, worst postoperative pain, and pain level at which they would like to receive analgesia (the pain treatment threshold). Parents and nurses also estimated the child pain treatment thresholds.

Results: For day 1, mean pain was 1.86 of a maximum of 6, mean worst pain was 4.16, and mean pain treatment threshold was 2.28. For day 2, these values were 1.90, 4.10, and 2.54, and for day 3 they were 1.62, 4.56, and 1.85, respectively. Mean scores for all 3 days were as follows: pain, 1.79; worst pain, 4.15; and pain treatment threshold, 2.33. Although mother-nurse ratings were correlated (0.471), mother-child and nurse-child ratings were not significantly correlated. Using the pain treatment threshold as the criterion, 36% of our subjects were undermedicated after the first day of surgery.

Conclusion: Pain treatment thresholds seem to be lower in children after major as compared with minor surgery. Parents and nurses are not accurate in rating child pain treatment thresholds. Parents tended to overestimate their child's pain treatment threshold, whereas nurses were less consistent in their scoring.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Analgesics / administration & dosage
  • Analgesics / therapeutic use
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nurses
  • Pain Measurement*
  • Pain Threshold*
  • Pain, Postoperative / classification*
  • Pain, Postoperative / drug therapy*
  • Parents
  • Self Concept
  • Sensitivity and Specificity


  • Analgesics