Content » Vol 51, Issue 6

Original report

Chronic pain in intensive care unit survivors: incidence, characteristics and side-effects up to one-year post-discharge

Helen Devine, Tara Quasim, Joanne McPeake, Martin Shaw, Louise Mccallum, Pamela Mactavish
Physiotherapy, Glasgow Royal Infirmary, G4OSF Glasgow, United Kingdom.
DOI: 10.2340/16501977-2558


Background: Intensive care unit survivors experience significant physical and psychological problems, including chronic pain following discharge. The aim of this study was to observe the incidence, anatomical sites, intensity, and interference of chronic pain in intensive care unit survivors over a 1-year period. In addition, potential predictors of chronic pain were analysed.
Methods: Data were collected during an intensive care unit follow-up programme as part of a quality improvement initiative. Data from the Brief Pain Inventory and from musculoskeletal assessment were examined, alongside demographic data from the patient. Data were collected from patients at baseline and at a 1-year follow-up appointment.
Results: Data from 47 intensive care unit survivors were included in this study. In 66% (n = 31) of the patients a “new” chronic pain that did not exist before their stay in the intensive care, was reported. Pain intensity in this patient group was “moderate”’ and did not improve significantly over the 1-year period. Although pain interference with life decreased over the study period, it was still the most common cause of reduced enjoyment of life and reduced employment at 1-year follow-up.
Conclusion: Chronic pain is associated with morbidity in intensive care unit survivors. Pain interference, but not pain intensity, improved significantly in the first year after discharge. Further multi-centre research is required to elucidate the chronic pain experience.

Lay Abstract

The sickest patients in a hospital often need treatment in an intensive care unit. When these patients eventually go home they often experience continuing psychological and physical problems, including pain. The aim of this study was to look at how often pain occurred in this group of patients, where the pain occurred, and if the pain was interfering with patient’s lives. We studied 47 patients after discharge from hospital and found that two-thirds of them had pain that they did not have before their stay in the intensive care unit. We followed up these patients over a 1-year period and found that the level of pain they experienced did not change over time. However, it did not interfere with their lives as much. Further studies are needed to find out why pain is such a major problem for intensive care unit survivors.


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