Protocolized post-operative pain management in infants; do we stick to it?
Background: The American Academy of Pediatrics states that ongoing assessment of pain is essential for adequate pain treatment. Pain assessment by means of the COMFORT behaviour scale and the Numeric Rating Scale is therefore an important component of the post-operative pain treatment protocol for neonates and infants in our intensive care unit (ICU). Aim: The study aims to determine degrees of staff compliance with this protocol. Patients and methods: This retrospective chart review concerned post-surgical patients under the age of 3 years admitted to our level III ICU over a 1-year period. The degree of compliance to the post-operative pain protocol was measured by the frequency of deviations from protocol-dictated drug treatment and pain assessments. Results: Records of 200 children with a median age at surgery of 98 days (interquartile range 6–320) were analysed. A mean of 11 assessments in the first 72 h post-operatively per patient had been recorded. A total of 2103 pain assessments were retrieved, of which 1675 (79.7%) suggested comfort. Compliance to the protocol (reassessment and correct medication) was provided in 66 (15.4%) of the 428 assessments suggesting pain or distress. Conclusion: The post-operative pain protocol applied in our ICU appears to be effective; however, full compliance to the protocol was marginal, possibly leading to under-treatment of pain.