Do quantitative changes in pain intensity correlate with pain relief and satisfaction?

Acad Emerg Med. 1998 Sep;5(9):851-7. doi: 10.1111/j.1553-2712.1998.tb02811.x.


Objective: To correlate measured pain intensity (PI) changes with pain relief and satisfaction with pain management.

Methods: A prospective single-group repeated-measures design study. A heterogeneous group of patients were asked to record their levels of PI at initial presentation and at ED release using a numerical descriptor scale (NDS) and a visual analog scale (VAS). At release, a 5-point pain relief scale and a pain management satisfaction survey were also completed.

Results: A convenience sample of 81 patients were enrolled over the study period. The average reduction in PI for all patients was 33%. A 5%, 30%, and 57% reduction in PI correlated with "no," "some/partial," and "significant/complete" relief, respectively (p < 0.001). However, when patients were divided into 2 groups based on their initial PI scores, patients with moderate/severe pain (NDS > 5) required a reduction of 35% and 84% in PI to achieve "some/partial" and "significant/complete" relief, respectively. Patients in less pain (NDS < or = 5) needed 25% and 29% reductions in PI for the same categories (p=0.8). Patients were generally satisfied with their pain management. There was a positive association between pain relief and satisfaction with pain management.

Conclusion: There is a significant association between changes in PI and pain relief. Greater reductions in PI are required for patients presenting with more severe initial pain to achieve relief compared with those who have lesser initial PI. While there is a linear relationship between increasing pain relief and satisfaction, relief of pain appears to only partially contribute to overall satisfaction with pain management.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Emergency Service, Hospital*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain Management*
  • Pain Measurement*
  • Patient Satisfaction*
  • Prospective Studies