Validating the brief pain inventory for use with surgical patients with cancer

Oncol Nurs Forum. Mar-Apr 2003;30(2):325-30. doi: 10.1188/03.ONF.325-330.


Purpose/objectives: To examine the psychometric characteristics of the Brief Pain Inventory (BPI) for surgical patients with cancer and to compare the validity and reliability results between surgical and medical patients with cancer.

Design: Descriptive and correlational.

Setting: Inpatient units in two veterans hospitals.

Sample: 388 patients with cancer (medical n = 229, surgical n = 159).

Methods: The BPI was administered to patients once, and a pain visual analog scale (VAS) was administered to patients three times. The VAS was correlated with individual items of the BPI and with the Pain Interference Subscale of the BPI; correlations were conducted separately for medical and surgical patients as a study of validity. Reliability was assessed using Cronbach's alpha for each group.

Main research variables: Pain at its worst and least, current pain intensity, average pain intensity, and pain relief.

Findings: Patients in both groups were predominantly male, older, and Caucasian. Means from both groups were similar for items on the BPI. Correlations between the Pain Interference Subscale and the other items on the BPI were similar for both groups. Correlations between the VAS and the Pain Interference Subscale of the BPI were equally high for the medical (r = 0.71, p less than 0.01) and surgical (r = 0.73, p less than 0.01) oncology groups. Reliability evaluated by the coefficient alpha was very high for the medical (r = 0.95) and surgical (r = 0.97) oncology groups.

Conclusions: The BPI is equally valid and reliable for medical and surgical male, Caucasian patients with cancer.

Implications for nursing: Nurses working with patients with cancer can have confidence that the BPI will assist them in assessing and managing pain in both groups.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / nursing*
  • Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Oncology Nursing / methods*
  • Pain Measurement / methods*
  • Pain, Postoperative / diagnosis
  • Pain, Postoperative / etiology
  • Pain, Postoperative / nursing*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Surveys and Questionnaires / standards*