Patient-reported pressure ulcer pain: a mixed-methods systematic review

J Pain Symptom Manage. 2011 Sep;42(3):443-59. doi: 10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2010.11.016. Epub 2011 Mar 27.


Context: Pressure ulcers (PUs) can cause patients considerable pain and discomfort; however, little is known about how PU pain affects patients' everyday lives. To improve outcomes for patients and to help clinicians manage PU pain, the existing qualitative and quantitative research bases were systematically reviewed.

Objectives: The aims were to identify and synthesize all research that obtained verbal patient reports of PU-associated pain, including descriptions of the pain experience, intensity, quality, and impact to interpret the complexities of the pain experienced from PUs; describe specific characteristics of PU pain; and determine how it affects patients' lives.

Methods: We searched eight electronic databases (from inception to January 2010), hand searched and cross-referenced. Research studies that addressed the experience of PU-associated pain by direct patient reports were included. Two reviewers independently applied inclusion criteria and extracted findings, allocating findings to defined categories. Synthesis of findings and categories were reviewed by three reviewers until reaching consensus.

Results: Ten studies were included: six qualitative and four quantitative. These included 108 adults with PUs. The PU pain experience was mapped, producing a conceptual framework of five domains: communicating the pain, feeling the pain, impact of pain, self-management, and professional management, and represented by 23 subdomains and five mediating factors (four psychological well-being plus comorbidity).

Conclusion: A biopsychosocial model of pain experienced from PUs is presented. Improved communication of pain experienced between the individual and health care professionals is needed to promote more effective PU pain management in the future.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Pain / etiology*
  • Pain Management
  • Pressure Ulcer / complications*
  • Self Care
  • Self Report
  • Severity of Illness Index