Regular use of a verbal pain scale improves the understanding of oncology inpatient pain intensity

E. Au, C. L. Loprinzi, M. Dhodapkar, T. Nelson, P. Novotny, J. Hammack, J. O'Fallon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Scopus citations


Purpose: This study was undertaken to determine if the daily use of a verbal pain scale could improve the correlation of pain perception between hospitalized oncology patients and their caregivers. Patients and Methods: Hospitalized oncology patients were asked to rate verbally their average pain over the past 24 hours on a scale ranging from 0 to 10. The patients' primary-care physicians and nurses were asked the same question on the same morning after they had evaluated their patients. Results: During a baseline study, only 64% of caregivers' pain scores were within two points of the respective patient's score. Caregivers tended to underestimate patients' pain scores. Caregivers were alerted to these poor results and then requested to ask each patient daily for the average pain score and record this score on the patient's medical record. Nonetheless, correlation between patients' and caregivers' pain scores remained poor (68% within two points of each other) during a second study. The major reason for the poor results appeared to be because caregivers did not routinely ask patients for pain scores. Subsequently, a renewed, more intensive educational effort was undertaken and a third study was conducted. During the third study, 85% of caregivers' and patients' pain scores were within two points of each other (P = .001 when compared with baseline). Conclusion: The enforced use of a simple verbal pain assessment tool appears to improve caregiver's understanding of the pain status of hospitalized oncology patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2751-2755
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Clinical Oncology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1994

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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