Hospital patients suffering more pain than necessary

23 Sept 2010

A study of hospitals in Germany has found that over 80% of patients suffer more severe pain than necessary.

The researchers from Bochum Hospital, Germany, studied the quality of pain therapy. They evaluated anonymous questionnaires filled out by approximately 2250 surgical patients and nearly 1000 non-surgical patients from 25 German hospitals between 2004 to 2006. The study participants were interviewed about the intensity of their pain and the effectiveness of pain therapy.

Approximately one-third of both the surgical and the non-surgical patients complained of moderate to severe pain at rest, while more than half of each group complained of moderate to severe movement-related pain. All in all, 56% of the participating patients had pain that they described as unbearable. More than 55% of the persons questioned considered their pain therapy in the hospital to have been unsatisfactory.

The authors say that safe medications and analgesic procedures to treat pain have been available for decades, and that there are international guidelines for pain treatment. The authors found there was a worldwide lack of multicentre data about the efficiency of acute pain therapy in non-surgical wards, so set up the Pain Free Hospital Project ((Projekt Schmerzfreies Krankenhaus, SFK) in 2003.

They believe these results indicate a clear need for improvement in pain therapy in German hospitals. In a small number of hospitals, exemplary efforts in this direction are already underway, demonstrating that effective pain therapy is indeed possible for both surgical and non-surgical patients.


1. Maier C, Nestler N, Richter H, Hardinghaus W et al. The quality of pain management in German hospitals. Dtsch Arztebl Int 2010; 107(36): 607-14. Full text available at: 


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