High inter-observer agreement of observer-perceived pain assessment in the emergency department

Martin Høhrmann Hangaard, Brian Malling, Christian Backer Mogensen


BACKGROUND: Triage is used to prioritize the patients in the emergency department. The majority of the triage systems include the patients' pain score to assess their level of acuity by using a combination of patient reported pain and observer-perceived pain; the latter therefore requires a certain degree of inter-observer agreement. The aim of the present study was to assess the inter-observer agreement of perceived pain among emergency department nurses and to evaluate if it was influenced by predetermined factors like age and gender.

METHOD: A project assistant randomly recruited two nurses, who were not allowed to interact with each other, to assess patient pain intensity on the numeric ranking scale. The project assistant afterwards entered the pain scores in a predesigned electronic questionnaire. We used weighted Fleiss-Cohen (quadratic) kappa statistics, Bland-Altman statistics and logistic regression analysis to assess the inter-observer agreement.

RESULTS: One hundred and sixty-two patients were included. They had a median age of 38 years and 45% were females. 30% of the patients were acute surgical patients and 70% acute orthopedic patients. The average time between the pain assessments were 1,7 min. The Bland Altman analysis found a mean difference in pain score of 0.2 and 95% limits of agreement of +/- 3 point. When the NRS scores were translated to commonly used pain categories (no, mild, moderate or severe pain) we found a 70% agreement with a mean difference in categories of 0.05 and 95% limits of agreement of +/- 1 category. Patient age, gender, localization of pain, examination room or presence of a significant other did not affect the inter-observer agreement.

CONCLUSION: We found 70% agreement on pain category between the nurses and it is justified that nurse-perceived pain assessment is used for triage in the emergency department.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBMC Emergency Medicine
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)8
Publication statusPublished - 21 Feb 2018


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