A prospective study of ED pain management practices and the patient's perspective.

Journal Article (Journal Article)


This study was conducted to describe the prevalence of pain in the emergency department and to identify factors that may contribute to its treatment.


Interviews were conducted with 203 patients who entered the emergency department during the study period. Patients were interviewed regarding various aspects of their pain. Medical records were reviewed to determine what treatments were provided.


One hundred sixty of the 203 patients came to the emergency department with a chief complaint related to pain, indicating a prevalence rate of 78%. Approximately 58% of all patients received either medication or an intervention. An average of 74 minutes elapsed from the time of arrival in the emergency department to the time of treatment with pharmacologic agents. Various independent variables were examined to determine their ability to predict the treatment of pain. Chest pain was most often treated with medication, and abdominal pain was least often treated with medication. Despite high pain ratings, only 15% of the sample received an opioid.


This study revealed a very high prevalence of pain among patients in the emergency department and showed that, overall, pain was poorly treated. The findings suggest that chest pain is the only type of pain routinely relieved in the emergency department. An anecdotal finding was that 31 patients said they would refuse pain medications if such medications were offered. Twenty-five patients reported fear of addiction as their reason for this refusal.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Tanabe, P; Buschmann, M

Published Date

  • June 1999

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 25 / 3

Start / End Page

  • 171 - 177

PubMed ID

  • 10346837

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1527-2966

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0099-1767

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1016/s0099-1767(99)70200-x


  • eng