Persistent nonmalignant pain and analgesic prescribing patterns in elderly nursing home residents

J Am Geriatr Soc. 2004 Jun;52(6):867-74. doi: 10.1111/j.1532-5415.2004.52251.x.


Objectives: To determine the prevalence of analgesics used, their prescribing patterns, and associations with particular diagnoses and medications in patients with persistent pain.

Design: Cross-sectional study.

Setting: Nursing homes from 10 U.S. states.

Participants: A total of 21,380 nursing home residents aged 65 and older with persistent pain.

Measurements: Minimum Data Set (MDS) assessments on pain, analgesics, cognitive, functional, and emotional status were summarized. Logistic regression models identified diagnoses associated with different analgesic classes.

Results: Persistent pain as determined using the MDS was identified in 49% of residents with an average age of 83; 83% were female. Persistent pain was prevalent in patients with a history of fractures (62.9%) or surgery (63.6%) in the past 6 months. One-quarter received no analgesics. The most common analgesics were acetaminophen (37.2%), propoxyphene (18.2%), hydrocodone (6.8%), and tramadol (5.4%). Only 46.9% of all analgesics were given as standing doses. Acetaminophen was usually prescribed as needed (65.6%), at doses less than 1,300 mg per day. Nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) were prescribed as a standing dose more than 70% of the time, and one-third of NSAIDs were prescribed at high doses.

Conclusion: In nursing home residents, persistent pain is highly prevalent, there is suboptimal compliance with geriatric prescribing recommendations, and acute pain may be an important contributing source of persistent pain. More effective provider education and research is needed to determine whether treatment of acute pain could prevent persistent pain.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Affect
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Analgesics / adverse effects
  • Analgesics / therapeutic use*
  • Analgesics, Opioid / adverse effects
  • Analgesics, Opioid / therapeutic use
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / adverse effects
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / therapeutic use
  • Cognition
  • Drug Prescriptions / statistics & numerical data*
  • Drug Utilization
  • Female
  • Homes for the Aged*
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Male
  • Nursing Homes*
  • Pain / drug therapy*
  • Pain / etiology
  • Pain Measurement
  • Quality of Life
  • United States


  • Analgesics
  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal