Older Age Linked to Decreased Perception of Acute Visceral Pain

“Physicians should have a lower threshold to consider serious painful emergencies in the very elderly, who may not exhibit as much pain as younger patients, putting them at higher risk for misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis,” emphasized Dr Reiter, residency director at the University of Tennessee-Murfreesboro/Nashville, who was not involved in the study.

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Older adults may experience less pain because of decreasing inflammatory processes, loss of primary afferent fibers, reduction of visceral or brain pain receptors, or pain habituation, the authors write, suggesting avenues for future research.

Future studies should also examine if elderly patients’ lower pain scores also correlate with a lower desire for pain medication, and whether they receive less pain medication, Dr Reiter concluded.

The study was supported by the Emergency Department Research Fund of Hȏpital du Sacré -Coeur de Montréal.