Background

While in the intensive care unit, critically ill patients experience a myriad of distressing symptoms and stimuli leading to discomfort, a negative emotional and/ or physical state that arises in response to noxious stimuli. Appropriate management of these symptoms requires a distinct assessment of discomfort-causing experiences.

Objectives

To assess patient-reported discomfort among critically ill patients with the English-language version of the Inconforts des Patients de REAnimation questionnaire, and to explore relationships between demographic and clinical characteristics and overall discomfort score on this instrument.

Methods

This study had a cross-sectional, descriptive, single-cohort design. The convenience sample consisted of alert and oriented patients aged 18 years or older who had been admitted to intensive care units at a Midwestern tertiary referral hospital and were invited to participate. An 18-item questionnaire on physiological and psychological stimuli inducing discomfort was administered once. Each item was scored from 0 to 10, with the total possible discomfort score ranging from 0 to 100. Descriptive statistics were used to analyze participants’ demographic and clinical characteristics and questionnaire responses.

Results

A total of 180 patients were enrolled. The mean (SD) overall discomfort score was 32.9 (23.6). The greatest sources of discomfort were sleep deprivation (mean [SD] score, 4.0 [3.4]), presence of perfusion catheters and tubing (3.4 [2.9]), thirst (3.0 [3.3]), and pain (3.0 [3.0]).

Conclusions

Intensive care unit patients in this study reported mild to moderate discomfort. Additional research is needed to design and test interventions based on assessment of specific discomfort-promoting stimuli to provide effective symptom management.

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