Mandatory pain scoring at triage reduces time to analgesia

Ann Emerg Med. 2012 Feb;59(2):134-8.e2. doi: 10.1016/j.annemergmed.2011.08.007. Epub 2011 Sep 9.


Study objective: We study whether mandatory triage pain scoring and an educational program reduces the time to initial analgesic treatment.

Methods: We performed a prospective interventional study in the emergency department (ED) of an adult tertiary referral hospital and major trauma center. After an observational assessment of baseline time to analgesic administration, we mandated the recording of triage pain scores through our computerized information system. In a second separate phase, we administered a staff educational package on the importance of timely analgesia. We measured time to initial analgesia after each phase and at 12-month follow-up.

Results: We studied 35,628 patients (8,743 baseline, 8,462 after mandating pain scoring, 9,043 after the educational program, and 9,380 at follow-up), with 12,925 patients (36.3%) overall receiving analgesics. At baseline, the median time to analgesia was 123 minutes (interquartile range [IQR] 58 to 231 minutes), which reduced with pain scoring (95 minutes; IQR 45 to 194 minutes) but no further with the educational package (98 minutes; IQR 45 to 191 minutes). At 12-month follow-up, the median time to analgesia was 78 minutes (IQR 45 to 143 minutes), 45 minutes (36.4%) faster than at baseline.

Conclusion: The simple act of altering our ED computerized information system to require pain scoring at triage led to substantially faster provision of initial analgesia, with the effect sustained at 12 months.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Analgesia / methods*
  • Analgesia / standards
  • Analgesia / statistics & numerical data
  • Analgesics / therapeutic use
  • Education / methods
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / standards
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mandatory Programs / standards
  • Mandatory Programs / statistics & numerical data*
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain Measurement / methods*
  • Pain Measurement / standards
  • Pain Measurement / statistics & numerical data
  • Prospective Studies
  • Time Factors
  • Triage / methods*


  • Analgesics