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Measuring acute pain in the prehospital setting
  1. P A Jennings1,2,
  2. P Cameron2,
  3. S Bernard1,2
  1. 1
    Ambulance Victoria, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  2. 2
    Monash University Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  1. Mr P A Jennings, Locked Bag 9000, Ballarat Mail Centre, Victoria, Australia 3354; paul.jennings{at}


Severe pain is a common presenting symptom for emergency patients. One major challenge in the management of severe pain is the objective measurement of pain. Due to the subjective nature of pain, it can be very difficult for clinicians to quantify pain intensity and measure the qualitative features of the pain experience. A number of measurement tools have been validated in the acute care setting, with some appropriate for use in the prehospital setting. This paper reviews the characteristics required of a prehospital acute pain measure and appraises the relative utility of a number of currently used pain measures. At present, the verbal numerical rating scale appears the most appropriate pain measure to administer in the prehospital setting for adult patients as it is practical and valid. Either the Oucher scale or the faces pain scale is suitable for prehospital care providers to assess pain in children.

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  • Competing interests: None.

  • Contributors: PAJ had the idea for the article. PC and SB provided advice regarding the focus of the article. PAJ undertook the literature search and wrote the article. PC and SB critically reviewed the article and provided further advice. PAJ is the guarantor.