Persistent Pain Among Older Adults Discharged Home From the Emergency Department After Motor Vehicle Crash: A Prospective Cohort Study

Publication Date


Journal Title

Ann Emerg Med


STUDY OBJECTIVE: Motor vehicle crashes are the second most common form of trauma among older adults. We seek to describe the incidence, risk factors, and consequences of persistent pain among older adults evaluated in the emergency department (ED) after a motor vehicle crash. METHODS: We conducted a prospective longitudinal study of patients aged 65 years or older who presented to one of 8 EDs after motor vehicle crash between June 2011 and June 2014 and were discharged home after evaluation. ED evaluation was done through in-person interview; follow-up data were obtained through mail-in survey or telephone call. Pain severity (0 to 10 scale) overall and for 15 parts of the body were assessed at each follow-up point. Principal component analysis was used to assess the dimensionality of the locations of pain data. Participants reporting pain severity greater than or equal to 4 attributed to the motor vehicle crash at 6 months were defined as having persistent pain. RESULTS: Of the 161 participants, 72% reported moderate to severe pain at the ED evaluation. At 6 months, 26% of participants reported moderate to severe motor vehicle crash-related pain. ED characteristics associated with persistent pain included acute pain severity; pain located in the head, neck, and jaw or lower back and legs; poor self-rated health; less formal education; pre-motor vehicle crash depressive symptoms; and patient's expected time to physical recovery more than 30 days. Compared with individuals without persistent pain, those with persistent pain were substantially more likely at 6-month follow-up to have also experienced a decline in their capacity for physical function (73% versus 36%; difference=37%; 95% confidence interval [CI] 19% to 52%), a new difficulty with activities of daily living (42% versus 17%; difference=26%; 95% CI 10% to 43%), a 1-point or more reduction in overall self-rated health on a 5-point scale (54% versus 30%; difference=24%; 95% CI 6% to 41%), and a change in their living situation to obtain additional help (23% versus 8%; difference=15%; 95% CI 2% to 31%). CONCLUSION: Among older adults discharged home from the ED post-evaluation after a motor vehicle crash, persistent pain is common and frequently associated with functional decline and disability.

Volume Number


Issue Number




Document Type


EPub Date





School of Medicine

Primary Department

Emergency Medicine





For the public and Northwell Health campuses