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An assessment of the psychometric properties of the Stoplight Pain Scale in a Canadian paediatric emergency department. Paediatr Child Health 2021 Nov;26(7):421-427



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OBJECTIVE: This study aimed to validate a novel, three faced, colour-coded, action-oriented tool: The Stoplight Pain Scale (SPS).

METHODS: A prospective observational cohort study was conducted at a Canadian paediatric emergency department from November 2014 to February 2017. Patients aged 3 to 12 years and their caregivers were asked to rate pain using the SPS and the Faces Pain Scale-Revised (FPS-R). Pain was measured just before analgesia administration, 30 minutes after analgesia administration, and immediately following a painful procedure.

RESULTS: A total of 227 patients were included; 26.9% (61/227) were 3 to 5 years old while 73.1% (166/227) were 6 to 12 years old. Using Cohen's κ, agreement for SPS and FPS-R was 'fair' for children (0.28 [95% confidence interval {CI} 0.20 to 0.36]) and 'poor' for caregivers (0.14 [95% CI 0.07 to 0.21]), at initial measurement. The SPS had 'fair' agreement between child and caregiver scores, (0.37 [95% CI 0.27 to 0.47]), compared to FPS-R which showed 'poor' agreement (0.20 [95% CI 0.12 to 0.29]). Absolute agreement between child and caregiver SPS scores improved with repeat exposure; 30 minutes after analgesia administration, caregivers and children had fair agreement (κ=0.38, 95% CI 0.28 to 0.48); they had moderate agreement directly following painful procedures (κ=0.46, 95% CI 0.34 to 0.59). Overall, 72.4% (139/192) of children and 60.2% (118/196) of caregivers preferred SPS over FPS-R.

CONCLUSION: The SPS demonstrates fair agreement with FPS-R for children and fair-moderate agreement between children and caregivers; agreement improved with repeat use. The SPS is simple and easy to use; it may have a role in empowering direct child and family involvement in pain management.

Author List

Ali S, Morrison E, Shwetz S, Yaskina M, Rajagopal M, Estey A, Drendel AL


Amy L. Drendel DO Professor in the Pediatrics department at Medical College of Wisconsin