Pain assessment and intensity in hospitalized children in Canada

J Pain. 2012 Sep;13(9):857-65. doi: 10.1016/j.jpain.2012.05.010.


Numerous acute pediatric pain assessment measures exist; however, pain assessment is not consistently performed in hospitalized children. The objective of this study was to determine the nature and frequency of acute pain assessment in Canadian pediatric hospitals and factors influencing it. Pain assessment practices and pain intensity scores documented during a 24-hour period were collected from 3,822 children aged 0 to 18 years hospitalized on 32 inpatient units in 8 Canadian pediatric hospitals. Pain assessment was documented at least once within the 24 hours for 2,615/3,822 (68.4%) children; 1,097 (28.7%) with a pain measure alone, 1,006 (26.3%) using pain narratives alone, and 512 (13.4%) with both a measure and narrative. Twenty-eight percent of assessments were conducted with validated measures. The mean standardized pain intensity score was 2.6/10 (SD 2.8); however, 33% of the children had either moderate (4-6/10) or severe (7-10/10) pain intensity recorded. Children who were older, ventilated, or hospitalized in surgical units were more likely to have a pain assessment score documented. Considerable variability in the nature and frequency of documented pain assessment in Canadian pediatric hospitals was found. These inconsistent practices and significant pain intensity in one-third of children warrant further research and practice change.

Perspective: This article presents current pediatric pain assessment practices and data on pain intensity in children in Canadian pediatric hospitals. These results highlight the variability in pain assessment practices and the prevalence of significant pain in hospitalized children, highlighting the need to effectively manage pain in this population.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Factors
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Canada / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Child, Hospitalized / statistics & numerical data*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Hospitals, Pediatric*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Pain Measurement*
  • Pain* / diagnosis
  • Pain* / epidemiology
  • Pain* / physiopathology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sex Factors