Study could help manage pain in delirious patients

March 23, 2016

A study led by Drs. Salmaan Kanji and Heather MacPhee is the first to show that a behaviour-based tool for assessing pain works even for delirious patients who are unable to say how they’re feeling. Up to 80 percent of patients in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) can experience delirium, a sudden state of confusion brought on by illness, surgery or some medication. The study, published in Critical Care Medicine, tested the ability of the Critical-Care Pain Observation Tool (CPOT) to accurately evaluate pain in 40 delirious patients in The Ottawa Hospital’s ICU. CPOT uses patients’ facial expressions, body movements, vocalizations and muscle tensing to assess levels of pain. This tool has been previously shown to improve pain management and clinical outcomes in ICU patients. This study shows that CPOT can now be used effectively for almost all ICU patients, except those who are deeply sedated or have limited mobility. The Society of Critical Care Medicine has included the study in new international guidelines.

Authors: Singh A, Johanson C, Fairbairn J, Lloyd T, MacLean R, Rosenberg E.

Funders: Canadian Society of Hospital Pharmacists Research Foundation, Canadian Society of Hospital Pharmacy, The Ottawa Hospital Foundation.

About The Ottawa Hospital

The Ottawa Hospital is one of Canada’s largest learning and research hospitals with over 1,100 beds, approximately 12,000 staff and an annual budget of over $1.2 billion. Our focus on research and learning helps us develop new and innovative ways to treat patients and improve care. As a multi-campus hospital, affiliated with the University of Ottawa, we deliver specialized care to the Eastern Ontario region, but our techniques and research discoveries are adopted around the world. We engage the community at all levels to support our vision for better patient care.

For further information, please contact

Amelia Buchanan
Senior Communication Specialist
Ottawa Hospital Research Institute
Office: 613-798-5555 x 73687
Cell: 613-297-8315

Disease and research area tags: Pain, Critical care