What Patients With Abdominal Pain Expect About Pain Relief in the Emergency Department

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Abdominal pain is the leading cause of patient visits to the emergency department. Although patients present to the emergency department in search of relief from pain, few experience complete pain relief. The purpose of this study was to describe patients' expectations for pain relief and how communication of their pain to nurses and physicians affected their overall pain relief.


Questionnaires were completed by patients who reported abdominal pain and by their primary nurse and physician. Numeric rating scales were used to rate pain intensity from 0 (no pain) to 10 (worst possible pain) and actual and expected pain relief (0 = no pain relief, 10 = complete relief).


Forty-four percent of patients reported that they expected complete relief of their abdominal pain. Over 98% of the patients told a provider that they were in pain, but only 33.3% asked for pain medication. No significant differences were found between the patients who asked for pain medication and those who did not in patients' expectation scores or relief scores.


The results of this study showed that patients with abdominal pain have high expectations for pain relief; however, their expectations were not associated with their tendency to ask for pain medication or report actual relief of pain.

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