Patients' self-report of procedural pain in the intensive care unit

Document Type

Journal Article


Faculty of Computing, Health and Science


School of Nursing, Midwifery and Postgraduate Medicine




Siffleet, J., Young, J., Nikoletti, S., & Shaw, T. (2007). Patients’ self‐report of procedural pain in the intensive care unit. Journal of clinical nursing, 16(11), 2142-2148. Available here


Aim.  To determine which routine nursing procedures performed on conscious intensive care unit (ICU) patients were painful and which routine procedures were not painful. Background.  Current empirical evidence supports that routine procedures are often not viewed in the context of causing pain to the critically ill patient. Given the complexity of illness and the need to prioritize care in ICU patients, clinicians may not consider routine procedures as causing pain. With patients in intensive care undergoing frequent routine procedures, greater understanding of which procedures inflict pain is warranted to improve patient care and inform and shape nursing practice. Design.  A prospective, descriptive study using a convenience sample of ICU patients was used. Methods.  Sixty-one patients were asked to rate pain intensity experienced prior to and during a routine nursing procedure using a verbal numeric rating scale. The procedures observed were turning, tracheal suctioning, line removal, deep breathing and coughing exercises, simple dressings and drain removal. Results.  Results showed that certain routine procedures cause pain with significant differences observed between pre- and postprocedure pain scores for drain removal (p = 0·042), deep breathing and coughing exercises (p = 0·003), suctioning (p = 0·025), positional change (p = 0·000) and line removal (p = 0·010). A higher proportion of morphine was administered to those patients undergoing drain removal (50%), deep breathing and coughing exercises (38·5%) and turns (32·6%) but results show that Conclusion.  Haemodynamic measures are not suitable indicators for the presence of pain. Nurses need to recognise that certain routine procedures can cause pain and should therefore plan patient care with this in mind. Relevance to clinical practice.  Nurses need to recognise of the fact that routine procedures can cause pain and to use analgesia appropriately to minimize this pain. Practice guidelines should recommend that pain relieving measures be considered as part of routine procedural instructions. Analgesic prescription and administration could be improved for this patient group.





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