Context: Little systematic research has been conducted to understand pain among persons with end-stage liver disease, especially among liver transplant candidates. Appropriate pain assessment and management are important areas of consideration as treatment options are limited.
Objective: To describe the nature of chronic pain in patients with end-stage liver disease, the extent to which pain affects daily level of functioning, and the variety and effectiveness of current treatments.
Design: Retrospective chart review.
Setting: Academic medical center in the Southeastern United States.
Patients: Data were collected from 108 consecutive adult liver transplant candidates.
Results: Most (77%) reported having experienced moderate levels of bodily pain within the past 24 hours. Patients with only alcoholic cirrhosis reported less pain than patients with cirrhosis due to other causes (alcoholism and hepatitis C, nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, only hepatitis C). Pain interfered significantly across all 10 functional domains assessed. Although 90% reported being prescribed a variety of analgesic agents (most commonly short-acting opioids), patients reported experiencing only 33% pain relief.
Conclusions: Pain is a significant problem among liver transplant candidates, and current pain treatments are perceived to be relatively ineffective. Increased understanding is needed to safely and effectively evaluate and treat such medically complicated patients.