Defining mild, moderate, and severe pain by using the color analogue scale with children presenting to a pediatric emergency department

Acad Emerg Med. 2006 Mar;13(3):341-4. doi: 10.1197/j.aem.2005.09.010. Epub 2006 Feb 22.


Objectives: To define in centimeters what constitutes mild, moderate, and severe acute pain in children by using the Color Analogue Scale (CAS) for pain.

Methods: This was a prospective study, using convenience sampling, of all children presenting to a pediatric ED between the ages of 5 and 16 years with a complaint of pain. Children were excluded if they had altered sensorium, were clinically unstable or required admission to the ICU, or were developmentally delayed. Children were asked to mark their pain severity on the standardized 10-cm CAS. To use this measure, children were asked to slide the marker to the point on the scale that best described the pain they were currently experiencing. They then were asked to describe their pain as "none," "mild," "moderate," or "severe."

Results: A total of 169 children were enrolled with a mean age of 10.1 years (SD +/- 3.2 years). Males accounted for 94 (55%); 89 (52.7%) were Hispanic, 63 (37.3%) were white, 8 (4.7%) were African American, and 9 (5.3%) were "others." In children who considered their pain to be mild (n = 34), the median score was 3.5 cm, and the mean score was 3.47 cm (95% CI = 2.95 to 3.99). For those with moderate pain (n = 68), the median score was 6.0 cm, the mean score was 6.04 cm (95% CI = 5.67 to 6.41), and if the pain was considered severe (n = 67) the median score was 8.5 cm, and the mean score was 8.28 cm (95% CI = 7.85 to 8.71).

Conclusions: This study quantifies what constitutes mild, moderate, and severe pain on the CAS scale. This information should be used to properly triage children with painful conditions and to identify appropriate patients for enrollment in analgesic studies.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Pain / classification
  • Abdominal Pain / diagnosis
  • Adolescent
  • Arizona
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Emergency Medicine / methods*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital*
  • Female
  • Headache / classification
  • Headache / diagnosis
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pain / classification*
  • Pain / diagnosis
  • Pain / etiology
  • Pain Measurement / methods*
  • Pediatrics / methods*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Wounds and Injuries / complications