Pain Measurement in Mechanically Ventilated Patients After Cardiac Surgery: Comparison of the Behavioral Pain Scale (BPS) and the Critical-Care Pain Observation Tool (CPOT).

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The Behavioral Pain Scale (BPS) and Critical-Care Pain Observation Tool (CPOT) are behavioral pain assessment tools for sedated and unconscious critically ill patients. The aim of this study was to compare the reliability, internal consistency, and discriminant validation of the BPS and the CPOT simultaneously in mechanically ventilated patients after cardiac surgery.


A prospective, observational cohort study.


A 20-bed closed-format intensive care unit with mixed medical, surgical, and cardiac surgery patients in a teaching hospital in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


The study comprised 72 consecutive intubated and mechanically ventilated patients after cardiac surgery who were not able to self-report pain.


Two nurses assessed the BPS and CPOT simultaneously and independently at the following 4 moments: rest, a nonpainful procedure (oral care), rest, and a painful procedure (turning). Both scores showed a significant increase of 2 points between rest and turning. The median BPS score of nurse 1 showed a significant increase of 1 point between rest and the nonpainful procedure (oral care), whereas both median CPOT scores did not change. The interrater reliability of the BPS and CPOT showed fair-to-good agreement of 0.74 overall. During the periods of rest 1 and rest 2, values ranged from 0.24 to 0.46. Cronbach's alpha values for the BPS were 0.62 (nurse 1) and 0.59 (nurse 2) compared with 0.65 and 0.58, respectively, for the CPOT.


The BPS and CPOT are reliable and valid pain assessment tools in a daily clinical setting. However, the discriminant validation of both scores seems less satisfactory in sedated or agitated patients and this topic requires further investigation.

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