FRIDAY, July 6, 2012 (HealthDay News) -- Many children who are hospitalized suffer from moderate to severe pain despite advances in medicine's understanding of how pain works and the best ways to treat it, a new study finds.
The research is based on medical records and, in some cases, surveys of 199 patients treated at Johns Hopkins Children's Center in 2007 and 2008. Almost nine out of every 10 children experienced pain, and it was moderate to severe for 40 percent of them. In some cases, children still had pain despite treatment.
"This study was designed as a pulse check to gauge our own progress," lead investigator Lori Kozlowksi, a pediatric pain specialist at Hopkins Children's Center, said in a Hopkins news release. "Our verdict is that while we've made tremendous strides, there's still work to be done."
According to the news release, previous research has found that people who are exposed to intense pain as children can become more sensitive to pain as adults. Pain can also lead to a variety of health problems, especially if it's not treated properly.
"Pain is the fifth vital sign which, together with blood pressure, heart rate, breathing and temperature, can provide important clues about a patient's well-being," senior investigator Dr. Constance Monitto, a pediatric anesthesiologist at Johns Hopkins Children's Center, said in the news release. "Treating a child in pain is a fundamental responsibility of every physician and nurse."
The researchers also found that kids who undergo surgery experience more pain than those who don't, and it's more challenging to relieve pain in cancer patients. Girls are more vulnerable than boys to pain, and many of those who were prescribed opioid painkillers "as needed" never actually got any.
The study was recently published online in the journal Pain Management Nursing.
For more on pain management in children, go to Stanford School of Medicine.