Pain in hospitalized HIV-positive patients: clinical and therapeutical issues


Brazilian Journal of Infectious Diseases




Pain is frequently reported by patients infected with Acquired Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), and its causes and specific treatment should be appropriately investigated. We evaluated 197 hospitalized HIV-positive patients with serial interviews and analysis of prescriptions and clinical evolution charts. The main characteristics of pain reported by these patients were: high intensity (60.7%), high frequency (72.0%) and well-known causes (88.8%). Fifty-two per cent of the patients reported persistent or frequent pain during the two weeks before hospital admission. Parameters such as gender, educational level and Karnofsky Index showed no direct relation to the presence or absence of pain. The most commonly affected sites were the head (28.0%) and the abdomen (26.2%). The frequency of indications of pain in the clinical evolution charts (46.2%) was considerably lower than the frequency of complaints reported by patients during the interviews (76.3%). Pain was undertreated in 83.2% of patients, both due to poor efficacy of the prescribed medications and to the excessive and inefficient use of standing order ("if necessary") regimens. We observed that pain was better managed during the hospitalization period, although this cannot be explained by improvement of the analgesic treatment; it might be due to successful treatment of the underlying disease. We concluded that pain reported by hospitalized HIV-positive patients is often underestimated and inadequately treated by assisting doctors, in spite of its severity and frequency.

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