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Emergency department doctors underestimating distress and pain levels, study finds

Norwegian study carried out in an emergency department in Bergen, found children and parents to be the best pain accessor

Children’s pain is more accurately assessed by parents and the children themselves than by emergency department (ED) doctors, who underestimate distress levels, a Norwegian study concludes.

It was already known that children often receive less pain relief than adults for the same illness and injuries in EDs.

But this 2011 study of 243 children between three and 15 years old, at a large ED in Bergen found that doctors significantly misjudged their pain.

Doctors’ assessments were particularly off course when they faced children with wounds, infections or soft tissue injuries. They assessed pain levels more accurately in fracture cases.

Pain relief

As pain levels increased, doctors’ pain assessments improved but, even so, hardly half the children with severe pain were given pain relief in the ED.



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