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Adolescents’ pain experiences are complex and multidimensional, and evaluating pain only from a sensory and affective point of view may be in many instances limiting and inadequate; this is the reason why it is of paramount importance to identify the tools which can better assess the pain experienced by young patients. A person-oriented approach is highly encouraged, as it may better investigate the cognitive and behavioral development typical of this age group. The aim of this review paper is to describe the available tools which are able to adequately assess pain intensity in adolescents, in particular those validated in Italian.
We conducted a systematic review using four databases: CINAHL, PsycINFO, PubMed and Cochrane, and selected all the articles published between January 1970 and November 2017. We selected all the papers reporting the validation process of pain assessment tools specifically tailored for adolescent patients (age range 10–18 years) and based on psychometric and linguistic parameters, and focused especially on the tools available in Italian and able to measure acute and chronic pain.
The results of our investigation have revealed the existence of 40 eligible tools, 17 of which are monodimensional and the remaining 23 multidimensional, more specifically tailored to assess both acute and chronic pain. Some of the instruments (26) were self-reports while others were classified as behavioral (13) and/or mixed. Only one tool turned out to be suitable for fragile adolescents, while six adopted a person-oriented approach that better emphasized the cognitive and behavioral process typical of the adolescent population. None of them has ever been validated in Italian.
Valid and reliable psychometric tools specifically organized to provide a cultural and linguistic evaluation of the patient are indeed the most recommended instruments to assess the intensity of the pain experienced by the patient, as they may provide useful information to implement a health policy aimed at identifying the best assistance programs.
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