Procedural Pain in Palliative Care: Is It Breakthrough Pain? A Multicenter National Prospective Study to Assess Prevalence, Intensity, and Treatment of Procedure-related Pain in Patients With Advanced Disease

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Abstract

Objective:

To assess the prevalence of breakthrough pain (BTP) provoked by 6 common procedures in patients with advanced disease.

Methods:

A prospective, cross-sectional, multicenter, national study was performed in 23 palliative care units in Italy. Patients were recruited if they were undergoing one of the following procedures as part of normal care: turning, personal hygiene care, transfer from bed to chair, bladder catheterization, pressure ulcer care, and subcutaneous drug administration. The Numerical Rating Scale was used to measure pain intensity before, during, and after the procedure.

Results:

One thousand seventy-nine eligible patients were enrolled: 49.7% were male and their mean age was 78.0±11.2 years. Of all patients, 20.9% had experienced a BTP episode within the 24 hours before recruitment. The overall prevalence of procedure-induced BTP was 11.8%, and the mean intensity score (Numeric Rating Scale) was 4.72±1.81. Notably, patients experienced a significant increase in pain intensity during all procedures (P<0.0001). A small proportion of patients (12.7%) received analgesics before undergoing any of the procedures, and almost none (1.7%) received analgesics during the procedures to alleviate acute pain.

Discussion:

Our findings highlight that simple daily care procedures can lead to BTP among patients with advanced disease. Because such procedures are performed very often during palliative care, more individualized attention to procedural pain control is necessary. Additional research on procedural pain in patients with advanced disease should be encouraged to provide further evidence-based guidance on the use of the available medication for predictable pain flares.

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