Sub-optimal pain control in patients with rheumatic disease.
journal contributionposted on 22.11.2019, 15:44 by Barry J. Sheane, Frank Doyle, Christina Doyle, Ciara O'Loughlin, Donough Howard, Gaye Cunnane
The visual analog scale (VAS) of pain is a ubiquitous clinical and research tool with widespread application in the rheumatic diseases. The objectives of this study were to assess if patients report pain differently to doctors or nurses, to determine reproducibility of this test for diagnosis, age, gender, and treatment, and to ascertain the level of pain in patients attending general rheumatology clinics. Using a standardized line of exactly 100 mm and instructions with identical wording, consecutive patients attending general rheumatology clinics were asked to score their perceived level of pain in the preceding week. Two assessments were carried out, one before and one after the clinic visit, and each patient was questioned by both a doctor and a nurse. Differences between the first and second VAS scores (VAS1 and VAS2) were recorded. One hundred and eight patients completed the study (69 female). VAS1 and VAS2 scores were administered by a similar number of doctors and nurses. There was no significant difference between mean VAS1 and VAS2 scores (41.1 vs. 41.4 mm, p = 0.78). VAS1 and VAS2 differed by <4 mm in>59% of patients. Age, gender, or diagnosis did not influence VAS1 or VAS2. Differences in scores were independent of which health professional administered the scale (p = 0.19). Patients taking painkillers had higher mean VAS scores (49 mm) compared with those not on analgesia (27 mm; p < 0.001). Anti-rheumatic treatment did not influence pain scores (p = 0.13). The VAS is a reliable and effective method of pain assessment. Results are independent of which health professional administers the scale. Patients with rheumatic disease report their pain similarly regardless of diagnosis. However, pain control is sub-optimal in patients taking analgesia. Specific assessment of pain is, thus, important in patients attending rheumatology clinics.