Comparing patients' and their physicians' assessments of pain

Pain. 1985 Nov;23(3):273-277. doi: 10.1016/0304-3959(85)90105-8.


Patients and their physicians were asked to estimate the pain from needle aspiration and/or injection of joints or soft tissue using the visual analogue scale. On a 10-point scale, the mean score for patients prior to and after the procedure was 4.76 +/- 2.97 and 4.01 +/- 3.51, respectively, and for physicians was 4.15 +/- 2.45 and 3.36 +/- 2.08. Analysis of correlations revealed that prior to the procedure patients could predict their 'true' pain (after the procedure assessment) better (r = 0.765) than physicians could predict patients' pain (r = 0.542). However, physicians significantly improved their estimates of patients' scores by observing the procedure. After the procedure correlation between physician and patient scores increased to 0.62 (P = 0.003). The overall pattern of results suggests that experienced patients may be somewhat better than their physicians in predicting the level of pain they experience with a procedure, but that physicians' estimates appear to be accurate enough to allow them to give useful information about the degree of discomfort that a patient will experience during an invasive procedure.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Drainage / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Forecasting
  • Humans
  • Injections / adverse effects*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Needles
  • Pain / etiology*
  • Patients*
  • Physicians*