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      Pain Perception in Latino vs. Caucasian and Male vs. Female Patients: Is There Really a Difference?

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          Pain is a common emergency department (ED) complaint. It is important to understand the differences in pain perception among different ethnic and demographic populations.


          We applied a standardized painful stimulus to Caucasian and Latino adult patients to determine whether the level of pain reported differed depending on ethnicity (N=100; 50 Caucasian [C], 50 Latino [L] patients) and gender (N=100; 59 female, 41 male). Patients had an initial pain score of 0 or 1. A blood pressure cuff was inflated 20 mm HG above the patient’s systolic blood pressure and held for three minutes. Pain scores, using both a 10-cm visual analog scale (VAS) and a five-point Likert scale, were taken at the point of maximal stimulus (2 minutes 50 seconds after inflation), and at one- and two-minute intervals post deflation.


          There was a statistically significant difference between the Likert scale scores of Caucasian and Latino patients at 2min 50sec (mean rank: 4.35 [C] vs. 5.75 [L], p<0.01), but not on the VAS (mean value: 2.94 [C] vs. 3.46 [L], p=0.255). Women had a higher perception of pain than males at 2min 50sec on the VAS (mean value: 3.86 [F] vs. 2.24 [M], p<0.0001), and the Likert scale (mean rank: 5.63 [F] vs. 4.21 [M], p<0.01).


          Latinos and women report greater pain with a standardized pain stimulus as compared to Caucasians and men.

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          Most cited references 16

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          Sex, gender, and pain: a review of recent clinical and experimental findings.

          Sex-related influences on pain and analgesia have become a topic of tremendous scientific and clinical interest, especially in the last 10 to 15 years. Members of our research group published reviews of this literature more than a decade ago, and the intervening time period has witnessed robust growth in research regarding sex, gender, and pain. Therefore, it seems timely to revisit this literature. Abundant evidence from recent epidemiologic studies clearly demonstrates that women are at substantially greater risk for many clinical pain conditions, and there is some suggestion that postoperative and procedural pain may be more severe among women than men. Consistent with our previous reviews, current human findings regarding sex differences in experimental pain indicate greater pain sensitivity among females compared with males for most pain modalities, including more recently implemented clinically relevant pain models such as temporal summation of pain and intramuscular injection of algesic substances. The evidence regarding sex differences in laboratory measures of endogenous pain modulation is mixed, as are findings from studies using functional brain imaging to ascertain sex differences in pain-related cerebral activation. Also inconsistent are findings regarding sex differences in responses to pharmacologic and non-pharmacologic pain treatments. The article concludes with a discussion of potential biopsychosocial mechanisms that may underlie sex differences in pain, and considerations for future research are discussed. This article reviews the recent literature regarding sex, gender, and pain. The growing body of evidence that has accumulated in the past 10 to 15 years continues to indicate substantial sex differences in clinical and experimental pain responses, and some evidence suggests that pain treatment responses may differ for women versus men.
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            Clinical significance of reported changes in pain severity.

            To determine the amount of change in pain severity, as measured by a visual analog scale, that constitutes a minimum clinically significant difference. Patients 18 years of age or older who presented with acute pain resulting from trauma were enrolled in this prospective, descriptive study. The setting was an urban county hospital emergency department with a Level 1 trauma center. In the course of a brief interview, patients were asked to indicate their current pain severity with a single mark through a standard 100-mm visual analog scale. At intervals of 20 minutes for the next 2 hours, patients were asked to repeat this measurement and, in addition, to contrast their present pain severity with that at the time of the previous measurement. They were to indicate whether they had "much less," "a little less," "about the same," "a little more," or "much more" pain. All contrasts were made without reference to prior visual analog scale measurements. A maximum of six measurements of pain change were recorded per patient. Measurements ended when the patient left the ED or when the patient reported a pain score of zero. The minimum clinically significant change in visual analog scale pain score was defined as the mean difference between current and preceding visual analog scale scores when the subject noted a little less or a little more pain. Forty-eight subjects were enrolled, and 248 pain contrasts were recorded. Of these contrasts, 41 were rated as a little less and 39 as a little more pain. The mean difference between current and preceding visual analog scale scores in these 80 contrasts was 13 mm (95% confidence interval, 10 to 17 mm). The minimum clinically significant change in patient pain severity measured with a 100-mm visual analog scale was 13 mm. Studies of pain experience that report less than a 13-mm change in pain severity, although statistically significant, may have no clinical importance.
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              Analysis of statistical tests to compare visual analog scale measurements among groups.

               M Chestnut,  F Dexter (1995)
              A common type of study performed by anesthesiologists determines the effect of an intervention on pain reported by groups of patients. The goal of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of t, analysis of variance (ANOVA), Mann-Whitney, and Kruskal-Wallis tests to compare visual analog scale (VAS) measurements between two or among three groups of patients. These results may be particularly helpful during the design of studies that measure pain with a VAS. One VAS measurement was obtained from each of 480 nulliparous women in labor who were receiving oxytocin (149), nalbuphine (159), or epidural bupivacaine (172). Multiple simulated samples were then drawn from these data. These simulated samples were used in computer simulations of clinical trials comparing VAS measurements among groups. t and ANOVA tests were performed before and after an arcsin transformation was used, to make the data closer to a normal distribution. VAS measurements were also compared after they were divided into five ranked categories. The statistical distributions of VAS measurements were not normal (P < 10(-7)). Arcsin transformation made the distributions closer to normal distributions. Nevertheless, no statistical test incorrectly suggested that a difference existed among groups, when there was no difference, more often than the expected rate. t or ANOVA tests had a slightly greater statistical power than the other tests to detect differences among groups. Because arcsin transformation both decreased differences among means and reduced the variance to a lesser extent, it decreased power to detect differences among groups. Statistical power to detect differences among groups was not less for a five-category VAS than for a continuous VAS. We conclude that t and ANOVA, without an accompanying arcsin transformation, are good tests to find differences in VAS measurements among groups.

                Author and article information

                West J Emerg Med
                West J Emerg Med
                Western Journal of Emergency Medicine
                Department of Emergency Medicine, University of California, Irvine School of Medicine
                June 2017
                17 April 2017
                : 18
                : 4
                : 737-742
                [* ]St. Luke’s University Hospital, Department of Emergency Medicine, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
                []Aria Health Network, Department of Emergency Medicine, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
                []Lehigh Valley Health Network, Department of Emergency Medicine, Allentown, Pennsylvania
                [§ ]St. Luke’s University Hospital, Research institute, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
                Author notes
                Address for Correspondence: Holly Stankewicz, DO, St. Luke’s University Hospital, Department of Emergency Medicine, 801 Ostrum Street Bethlehem, PA 18015. Email: holly.stankewicz@ .
                Copyright: © 2017 Aufiero et al

                This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0) License. See:

                Health Outcomes
                Original Research

                Emergency medicine & Trauma


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