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Psychological Screening for Youth with Abdominal Pain

Pediatrics; ePub 2018 Jul 25; Cunningham, et al

In youth with abdominal pain, systematic screening for anxiety, pain, and pain-related disability as a routine part of medical care can be reliably implemented, a recent study suggests. A screening process for patient-reported anxiety, functional disability, and pain levels was implemented in a large gastroenterology division within a major medical center. Quality improvement methods and traditional analytic approaches were used to test the feasibility and outcomes of routine screening in patients aged 8 to 18 years with abdominal pain. Researchers found:

  • Screening rates increased from < 1% to > 80%.
  • 1,291 patients who reported having abdominal pain completed the screening during the first 6 months.
  • Clinically significant anxiety (43.1%), at least moderate disability (45%), and elevated pain (61.5%) were common in children with abdominal pain.
  • The presence of clinically significant anxiety corresponded with higher pain and pain-related disability.
  • After project implementation, psychological referral rates increased from 8.3 per 1,000 patients to 15.2 per 1,000 patients.


Cunningham NR, Moorman E, Brown CM, et al. Integrated psychological screening into medical care for youth with abdominal pain. [Published online ahead of print July 25, 2018]. Pediatrics. doi:10.1542/peds.2017-2876.