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Accuracy of Pain Recall in Children

Chogle, Ashish*; Sztainberg, Marcelo; Bass, Lee*; Youssef, Nader N.||; Miranda, Adrian; Nurko, Samuel#; Hyman, Paul**; Cocjin, Jose††; Di Lorenzo, Carlo‡‡; Saps, Miguel*

Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition: September 2012 - Volume 55 - Issue 3 - p 288–291
doi: 10.1097/MPG.0b013e31824cf08a

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.

*Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition, Children's Memorial Hospital

Department of Computer Science, Northeastern University, Chicago, IL

NPS Pharmaceuticals, Bedminster

§Digestive Healthcare Center, Hillsborough

||Department of Pediatrics, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Newark, NJ

Division of Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, WI

#Division of Gastroenterology and Nutrition, Children's Hospital Boston, Boston, MA

**Department of Gastroenterology, Children's Hospital, New Orleans, LA

††Division of Gastroenterology, Children's Mercy Hospital and Clinics, Kansas City, MO

‡‡Division of Pediatric Gastroenterology, Nationwide Children's Hospital, Columbus, OH.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Dr. Miguel Saps, MD, Division of Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition, Children's Memorial Hospital, 2300 N Children's Plaza, PO Box 57, Chicago, IL 60614 (e-mail:

Received 9 March, 2011

Accepted 25 October, 2011

The study was supported in part by the 2003 Clinical Research Award from the American College of Gastroenterology, grant no. CHP 19596 RA501, and grants M01 RR-00048, M01 RR-00084, and M01 RR-02172 from the National Center for Research Resources, National Institutes of Health.

The authors report no conflicts of interest.

Copyright 2012 by ESPGHAN and NASPGHAN