Paediatricians' Views on Pain in Children with Profound Intellectual and Multiple Disabilities

Brain Sci. 2021 Mar 23;11(3):408. doi: 10.3390/brainsci11030408.


Pain is a frequent issue in children with profound intellectual and multiple disabilities (PIMD). Its identification and treatment can prove highly challenging for primary care physicians, mainly because of the children's limited communication abilities. We used an online survey to explore paediatricians' views regarding the experience and management of pain in children with PIMD and invited 480 professionals working in the canton of Vaud, Switzerland, to take part. We received 121 responses (participation rate 25.5%). A large majority of respondents provided care to children with PIMD. All paediatricians considered that these children feel pain at least as much as typically developing children. However, paediatricians had mixed views on their tolerance to pain. More than 90% held the view that their pain is under-assessed and undertreated. The principal barriers they reported to appropriate management were communication limitations with the child, difficulties in pain assessment, lack of knowledge about children with disabilities and lack of experience. Paediatricians have complex opinions regarding how children with PIMD experience pain and how to manage this problem. Professional education and training on the specificities of children with PIMD, including how to address their pain, seem necessary to foster paediatricians' ability and confidence in approaching this complex issue.

Keywords: child; disability; paediatrician; pain; profound intellectual and multiple disabilities; survey.