Evaluation of a Clinical Protocol to Assess and Diagnose Neuropathic Pain During Acute Hospital Admission: Results From Traumatic Spinal Cord Injury

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A clinical protocol was developed for clinicians to routinely assess and initiate treatment for patients with neuropathic pain (NP) in an acute care setting. The objectives of this study were to: (1) determine the incidence and onset of NP in patients with traumatic spinal cord injury during acute care and (2) describe how the implementation of a clinical protocol impacts the assessment and diagnosis of NP.

Materials and Methods:

The study was a cohort analysis with a pre-post-test utilizing a historical control. Data were retrospectively collected from a patient registry and charts. Participants were randomly selected in cohort 1 (control) and cohort 2 (NP clinical protocol).


The incidence of NP was 56% without significant difference between the cohorts (P=0.3). Onset of NP was 8 days (SD=14) across the study and >85% of the participants with NP were diagnosed within 2 weeks. Participants with incomplete injuries had a significant earlier onset than participants with complete injuries (6.2±12.8, 10.9±15.8 d; P=0.003). The mean number of days from hospital admission to initial assessment decreased with use of the NP clinical protocol (3.7±5.7 d; P=0.02).


This study demonstrates a high incidence and early onset of NP in traumatic spinal cord injury during acute hospital care, with an earlier emergence in participants with incomplete injury. The NP clinical protocol ensured continuous assessment and documentation of NP while decreasing the time to an initial screen, but did not impact diagnosis.

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