A prospective study of pain control in the emergency department

Jeffrey F. Barletta, Brian L. Erstad, Michael Loew, Samuel M. Keim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


The most common complaint in the emergency department is pain. The management of acute pain, however, has not been well studied. This prospective study was designed to assess pain intensity and relief along with satisfaction in the emergency department. Adult patients with a primary complaint of acute pain were asked to complete a two-part questionnaire administered by a research assistant. The first part was completed on arrival and the second part on discharge from the emergency department. The respondents were not permitted to see the first part of the questionnaire while completing the second. The questionnaire used an unmarked, horizontal 10-cm visual analog scale along with short answer questions to measure pain, relief, and satisfaction. Choice of drug therapy was decided by the physician according to usual treatment methods. Fifty-seven people presented with the chief complaint of pain. Of those, 30 (53%) were treated with medications. The mean level of pain on admission for treated patients was 6.64 compared with a mean level of pain on discharge of 4.02 (P = .0001). Untreated patients had a mean admission visual analog scale score of 4.19. Compared with treated patients, this difference was statistically significant (P = .001). A mean visual analog scale score of 5.43, representing the mean amount of pain relief, was reported among treated patients. Treated patients also reported a visual analog scale score of 6.46 in overall satisfaction with pain management. The results of this study indicate that there is a significant and clinical difference in levels of pain and satisfaction between admission and discharge in these patients in the emergency department.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)251-255
Number of pages5
JournalAmerican journal of therapeutics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2000


  • Emergency department
  • Pain
  • Survey

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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