Patient Empowerment and Feedback Did Not Decrease Pain in Seriously Ill Hospitalized Adults

Published in: Pain, Vol. 75, No. 2-3, Jan. 1998, p. 237-246

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 1998

by Norman A. Desbiens, Albert W. Wu, Yutaka Yasui, Joanne Lynn, Carlos Alzola, Neil S. Wenger, Alfred F. Connors, Jr., Russell S. Phillips, William Fulkerson

The authors tested a nurse clinician-mediated intervention to relieve pain in a group of seriously ill hospitalized adults using a randomized controlled trial at five tertiary care academic centers in the US. The study included 4804 patients admitted between January 1992 and January 1994 with one or more of nine high mortality diagnoses; 2652 were allocated to the intervention and 2152 to usual care. Specially-trained nurse clinicians assessed patients' pain, educated them and their families about pain control, empowered patients to expect pain relief, informed patients' nurses and physicians about level of pain and suggested or used other pain management resources. Patients' pain was determined from hospital interviews with patients and surrogates. Pain 2 and 6 months later or after death and satisfaction with its control at all time periods were also assessed. All analyses were adjusted for baseline risk of being in pain and propensity to be in the intervention group. Overall, 50.9% of patients reported some pain. After adjustment for other variables associated with pain, comparing the intervention to the control group, there was not a statistically significant difference in level of pain (OR for higher levels of pain 1.15; CI 1.00-1.32) or satisfaction with control of pain during the hospitalization (OR for higher levels of pain 1.12; CI 0.91-1.39), 2 or 6 months after discharge, or during the last 3 days of life. A multifaceted intervention using information, empowerment, advocacy, counseling and feedback was ineffective in ameliorating pain in seriously ill patients. Control of pain in these patients remains an important problem. More intensive pain treatment strategies addressing the needs of seriously ill hospitalized adults must be evaluated.

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