Implementation of the Critical Care Pain Observation Tool increases the frequency of pain assessment for noncommunicative ICU patients

Margaret Louise Phillips, Vijo Kuruvilla, Michael Bailey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Pain is a common stressor for ICU patients, necessitating routine assessment. For patients who are unable to communicate, self-report tools are unsuitable, and the use of an observational tool is required to assess pain appropriately. The Critical Care Pain Observation Tool (CPOT) is the most reliable tool currently available to assess pain in these patients. We investigated whether the implementation of the CPOT in one Australian ICU could increase frequency of appropriate pain assessments, and if this would affect the administration of analgesia and sedation. Methods: In this before and after study, we first performed a retrospective chart audit on 441 adult ICU patient charts, over 49 days. Data collected included frequency and type of pain assessments, sedation and analgesia administered, communication and CAM-ICU status, and bedside nurse-perceived pain. During the implementation phase, new policy and guideline documents were released, and ICU charts were redesigned to incorporate the CPOT. All nursing staff attended an education session on pain assessment and correct use of the CPOT. The chart audit was repeated, capturing 344 charts over 43 days. Results: Mean total assessments in 24 hours increased from 7.2 to 7.9 for communicative, 3.0 to 8.9 for non-communicative, and 5.1 to 9.1 for transitioning patients. For non-communicative patients there was a significant increase in observational assessments including the CPOT (1.7 to 8.3), and a decrease in inappropriate use of self-report tools (1.3 to 0.2). We also observed significant increases in administration of paracetamol, opiates, propofol, patient-controlled analgesia, modified-release opiates, and neuropathic pain agents. Conclusions: Implementation of the CPOT using standardised education and resources led to increased frequency of pain assessment, particularly for non-communicative patients. Appropriate observational assessments were also more frequently used for these patients. Analgesic administration generally increased, as did the use of propofol.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)367-372
Number of pages6
JournalAustralian Critical Care
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2019


  • Analgesia
  • CPOT
  • Critical Care
  • ICU
  • Implementation
  • Intensive Care
  • Pain
  • Pain assessment
  • Sedation

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