Objectives: To evaluate the pain experience of seriously ill hospitalized patients and their satisfaction with control of pain during hospitalization. To understand the relationship of level of pain and dissatisfaction with pain control to demographic, psychological, and illness-related variables.
Design: Prospective, cohort study.
Setting: Five teaching hospitals.
Patients: Patients for whom interviews were available about pain (n = 5,176) from a total of 9,105 patients in the Study to Understand Prognoses and Preferences for Outcomes and Risks of Treatments (SUPPORT).
Measurements and main results: Patients were interviewed after study enrollment about their experiences with pain. When patients could not be interviewed due to illness, we used surrogate (usually a family member) responses calibrated to patient responses (from the subset of interviews with both patient and surrogate responses). Ordinal logistic regression was used to study the association of variables with level of pain and satisfaction with its control. Nearly 50% of patients reported pain. Nearly 15% reported extremely severe pain or moderately severe pain occurring at least half of the time, and nearly 15% of those patients with pain were dissatisfied with its control. After adjustment for confounding variables, older and sicker patients reported less pain, while patients with more dependencies in activities of daily living, more comorbid conditions, more depression, more anxiety, and poor quality of life reported more pain. Patients with colon cancer reported more pain than patients in other disease categories. Levels of reported pain varied among the five hospitals and also by physician specialty. After adjustment for confounding variables, dissatisfaction with pain control was more likely among patients with more severe pain, greater anxiety, depression, and alteration of mental status, and lower reported income; dissatisfaction with pain control also varied among study hospitals and by physician specialty.
Conclusions: Pain is common among severely ill hospitalized patients. The most important variables associated with pain and satisfaction with pain control were patient demographics and those variables that reflected the acute illness. Pain and satisfaction with pain control varied significantly among study sites, even after adjustment for many potential confounders. Better pain management strategies are needed for patients with the serious and common illnesses studied in SUPPORT.