Pain assessment in brain-injured patients in the intensive care unit (ICU) is challenging and existing scales may not be representative of behavioral reactions expressed by this specific group. This study aimed to validate the French-Canadian and English revised versions of the Critical-Care Pain Observation Tool (CPOT-Neuro) for brain-injured ICU patients.
A prospective cohort study was conducted in three Canadian and one American sites. Patients with a traumatic or a non-traumatic brain injury were assessed with the CPOT-Neuro by trained raters (i.e., research staff and ICU nurses) before, during, and after nociceptive procedures (i.e., turning and other) and non-nociceptive procedures (i.e., non-invasive blood pressure, soft touch). Patients who were conscious and delirium-free were asked to provide their self-report of pain intensity (0–10). A first data set was completed for all participants (
n= 226), and a second data set ( n= 87) was obtained when a change in the level of consciousness (LOC) was observed after study enrollment. Three LOC groups were included: (a) unconscious (Glasgow Coma Scale or GCS 4–8); (b) altered LOC (GCS 9–12); and (c) conscious (GCS 13–15). Results
Higher CPOT-Neuro scores were found during nociceptive procedures compared to rest and non-nociceptive procedures in both data sets (
p< 0.001). CPOT-Neuro scores were not different across LOC groups. Moderate correlations between CPOT-Neuro and self-reported pain intensity scores were found at rest and during nociceptive procedures (Spearman rho > 0.40 and > 0.60, respectively). CPOT-Neuro cut-off scores ≥ 2 and ≥ 3 were found to adequately classify mild to severe self-reported pain ≥ 1 and moderate to severe self-reported pain ≥ 5, respectively. Interrater reliability of raters’ CPOT-Neuro scores was supported with intraclass correlation coefficients > 0.69. Conclusions
The CPOT-Neuro was found to be valid in this multi-site sample of brain-injured ICU patients at various LOC. Implementation studies are necessary to evaluate the tool’s performance in clinical practice.