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Quantitative sensory testing measures individual pain responses in emergency department patients

Authors Duffy KJ, Flickinger KL, Kristan JT, Repine MJ, Gianforcaro A, Hasley RB, Feroz S, Rupp JM, Al-Baghli J, Pacella ML, Suffoletto BP, Callaway CW

Received 16 January 2017

Accepted for publication 12 April 2017

Published 24 May 2017 Volume 2017:10 Pages 1241—1253


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 3

Editor who approved publication: Dr Katherine Hanlon

Kevin J Duffy, Katharyn L Flickinger, Jeffrey T Kristan, Melissa J Repine, Alexandro Gianforcaro, Rebecca B Hasley, Saad Feroz, Jessica M Rupp, Jumana Al-Baghli, Maria L Pacella, Brian P Suffoletto, Clifton W Callaway

Department of Emergency Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, USA

Background: Refining and individualizing treatment of acute pain in the emergency department (ED) is a high priority, given that painful complaints are the most common reasons for ED visits. Few tools exist to objectively measure pain perception in the ED setting. We speculated that variation in perception of fixed painful stimuli would explain individual variation in reported pain and response to treatment among ED patients.
Materials and methods: In three studies, we 1) describe performance characteristics of brief quantitative sensory testing (QST) in 50 healthy volunteers, 2) test effects of 10 mg oxycodone versus placebo on QST measures in 18 healthy volunteers, and 3) measure interindividual differences in nociception and treatment responses in 198 ED patients with a painful complaint during ED treatment. QST measures adapted for use in the ED included pressure sensation threshold, pressure pain threshold (PPT), pressure pain response (PPR), and cold pain tolerance (CPT) tests.
Results: First, all QST measures had high inter-rater reliability and test–retest reproducibility. Second, 10 mg oxycodone reduced PPR, increased PPT, and prolonged CPT. Third, baseline PPT and PPR revealed hyperalgesia in 31 (16%) ED subjects relative to healthy volunteers. In 173 (88%) ED subjects who completed repeat testing 30 minutes after pain treatment, PPT increased and PPR decreased (Cohen’s dz 0.10–0.19). Verbal pain scores (0–10) for the ED complaint decreased by 2.2 (95% confidence intervals [CI]: 1.9, 2.6) (Cohen’s dz 0.97) but did not covary with the changes in PPT and PPR (r=0.05–0.13). Treatment effects were greatest in ED subjects with a history of treatment for anxiety or depression (Cohen’s dz 0.26–0.43) or with baseline hyperalgesia (Cohen’s dz 0.40–0.88).
Conclusion: QST reveals individual differences in perception of fixed painful stimuli in ED patients, including hyperalgesia. Subgroups of ED patients with hyperalgesia and psychiatric history report larger treatment effects on ED pain and QST measures.

Keywords: emergency department, quantitative sensory testing, hyperalgesia, opioid, anxiety, depression

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