MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Kathy Aebel-Groesch, MSW,LCSW
Manager, Social Work Services
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Response: Chronic pain and depression can impact quality of life and adherence to treatment regimen among patients with end-stage renal disease (ESRD). Previous research has demonstrated that patients with ESRD experience pain and depression more frequently than the general population. From 2016, CMS has required that all eligible ESRD patients are evaluated regularly for pain and depressive symptoms.
We assessed pain and depression symptom scores among patients of a large dialysis organization (LDO) over the period Mar-Oct 2016. Pain was assessed monthly by LDO nurses using the Wong-Baker pain scale (0-10). Depression screenings were conducted biannually by LDO social workers using the PHQ-2 (scale 0-6) and excluded patients with existing diagnosis of depression or bipolar disorder, cognitive impairment or language barrier, and those who were hospitalized or refused screening.
A total of 688,346 pain responses from 160,626 individual patients and 223,421 depression screening responses from 158,172 patients were considered. A score of 0 (no pain) was reported for 83.5% of pain responses and 65.7% of patients had a 0 score in all pain assessments. A score of 10 (most severe pain) was reported at least once during the study period by 3.0% of patients. Patients with a pain score of 10 were more frequently female (55%) and patients on peritoneal dialysis were less likely to have a pain score of 10 than those on other modalities. A depression score of 0 (patient answered “Not at all” to both “Little interest or pleasure in doing things” and “Feeling down, depressed, or hopeless”) was reported for 69.1% of all responses and 62.6% of patients had a 0 score in all assessments; 1.8% of patients had at least one score of 6 (patient responded “Nearly every day” to both questions) and 9.7% had at least one score of 3 or more. Patients with a score of 0 were more likely to be male vs. female, HHD vs. PD or ICHD, ≥ age 70 years.
The majority of ESRD patients did not report pain symptoms and, among those not excluded from screening due to an existing diagnosis of depression or other reason, the majority did not report symptoms of depression. However, routine assessment of pain and depression enables the timely identification of new or increased symptoms, thus allowing earlier implementation of interventions that may improve patient experience. The LDO has since revised its depression screening policy to remove diagnosis of depression from exclusion criteria and to administer the PHQ-9 to patients with a PHQ-2 score ≥ 3.