Occurrence and Practices for Pain, Agitation, and Delirium in Intensive Care Unit Patients

Carmen Mabel Arroyo-Novoa, Milagros I. Figueroa-Ramos, Kathleen A. Puntillo


Objective: Our study described the occurrence, assessment, prevention, and management practices of pain, agitation, and delirium (PAD) in four intensive care units (ICUs) from the Puerto Rico Medical Center and compared findings with the 2013 PAD guidelines. Methods: A descriptive study, with repeated bedside measures (two times a day/two times a week) of PAD and review of patient clinical records. Results: Eighty ICU patients (20 per ICU) were evaluated, (median 3 times [IQR, 2-7]). At least once during the assessment period, 57% percent of patients had significant pain and 34% had delirium. Moreover, 46% were deeply sedated, 17.5% had agitation, and 52.5% of patients were within the recommended Richmond Agitation-Sedation Scale (RASS) scores. The Numeric Rating Scale and RASS were the most common tools used by clinicians to evaluate pain and agitation/sedation levels, respectively. Clinicians did not assess pain in patients unable to self-report with any guideline-recommended tools, as was the case for delirium. Fentanyl and morphine were the most commonly used analgesics, while benzodiazepines were used for sedation. Conclusion: Although pain, agitation, and delirium occurrence were similar to other studies, patients continue to suffer. A gap exists between clinical practices in these ICUs and current guidelines. Strategies that contribute to integrating guidelines into these ICUs should be developed, studied, and implemented.


pain; analgesia; agitation; sedation; delirium; intensive care unit

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