Background and Aim: Chronic abdominal pain (AP) is common in children. Recall of symptoms is used clinically to determine management, to assess treatment progress, and in drug studies to assess outcomes. Limited data exist on accuracy of AP recall in children. The aim of the present study was to assess ability to accurately recall AP in children.
Methods: The study was a secondary analysis of data obtained from a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial, evaluating amitriptyline in children with functional gastrointestinal disorders. Children ages 8 to 17 years with AP predominant functional gastrointestinal disorders based on Rome II criteria were recruited from 6 centers. Those with evidence of organic disease were excluded. Patients maintained AP diary daily for 1 month (presence, frequency, and intensity). At the end of the study, patients reported the number of days of AP during previous month. Agreement between daily pain reports and recalled pain was assessed. Univariate analysis was conducted with Spearman rank correlations.
Results: We recruited 63 children (45 girls, mean age 12.8 years). Sixteen percent children had perfect agreement on number of days of AP. Fifty-four percent of children recalled fewer episodes of pain. The average number of days with AP by recall was 17.7/month, whereas by diary it was 23.5/month (P = 0.001). Correlation between patient recall of the last week of symptoms (r = 0.47) was no better than correlation between recall of the last 30 days of symptoms (r = 0.48). On comparing AP recall versus various pain intensities, reported AP did not reflect only AP of greater severity. Higher correlation of recall of symptoms was seen in children 11 years or younger (r = 0.59) as compared with children older than 11 years (r = 0.26).
Conclusions: Few children can accurately recall the episodes of AP. Children commonly recall a lower frequency of AP than that assessed by prospective diary reports. Reported recall does not reflect a shorter recollection period. Recall is not related to intensity of pain. Adolescents have worse recall of symptoms.