Minimal Use of Opioids for Pain Relief in an Internal Medicine Department

Zvi Shimoni, Danielle Varon, Paul Froom*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives The objective of the study was to determine if pain control was adequate despite our policy of limited opioid use. Methods In this observational cohort study, we reviewed 300 consecutive patient charts from an internal medicine department. We extracted demographic data, as well as the patients' primary diagnosis, pain on admission, daily pain evaluations (numerical rating score [NRS]), and treatment. Significant pain was defined as a score of ≥3 on the NRS. We determined the incidence of pain and pain control and reviewed the charts of those with an NRS ≥3 for ≥3 days to determine the need for opioid therapy. Results Of 1692 total hospitalization days in the 300 consecutive patients with a median age of 80 years (1st-3rd quartiles, 65-87 years) there were 204 days with complaints of pain (12.1%) and 149 days (8.8%) with reports of pain of ≥3 on the NRS. Overall, 28.3% (85 of 300) of the patients had significant pain during their hospitalization. Most of the pain, however, (80.0%, 68 of 85) was short-term (1-2 days) whether or not the patient received pain medication. Pain relief treatment in the hospital included opioids in 17 (5.7%, 95% confidence interval [CI] 3.5-8.9) and dipyrone in 36 (12%, 95% CI 8.8-16) of the 300 patients. Pain control was adequate in the seven patients with prolonged pain who did not receive opioids. There were only two patients discharged with prescriptions for opioids (0.7%, 95% CI 0.2-2.6). Conclusions Significant pain is common in patients hospitalized in an internal medicine department, but the pain is mostly short term and pain control is adequate despite the restricted use of opioid therapy during hospitalization.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)288-292
Number of pages5
JournalSouthern Medical Journal
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 May 2018


  • dipyrone
  • hospital
  • numeric rating scale
  • opioids
  • pain relief


Dive into the research topics of 'Minimal Use of Opioids for Pain Relief in an Internal Medicine Department'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this