Evaluation of interobserver agreement for postoperative pain and sedation assessment in cats

Benito J, Monteiro BP, Beauchamp G, Lascelles BDX, Steagall PV. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2017 Sep 1; 251 (5): 544-551.

OBJECTIVE: To evaluate agreement between observers with different training and experience for assessment of postoperative pain and sedation in cats by use of a dynamic and interactive visual analog scale (DIVAS) and for assessment of postoperative pain in the same cats with a multidimensional composite pain scale (MCPS).
DESIGN: Randomized, controlled, blinded study. ANIMALS 45 adult cats undergoing ovariohysterectomy.

PROCEDURES: Cats received 1 of 3 preoperative treatments: bupivacaine, IP; meloxicam, SC with saline (0.9% NaCl) solution, IP, (positive control); or saline solution only, IP (negative control). All cats received premedication with buprenorphine prior to general anesthesia. An experienced observer (observer 1; male; native language, Spanish) used scales in English, and an inexperienced observer (observer 2; female; native language, French) used scales in French to assess signs of sedation and pain. Rescue analgesia was administered according to MCPS scoring by observer 1. Mean pain and sedation scores per treatment and time point, proportions of cats in each group with MCPS scores necessitating rescue analgesia, and mean MCPS scores assigned at the time of rescue analgesia were compared between observers. Agreement was assessed by intraclass correlation coefficient determination. Percentage disagreement between observers on the need for rescue analgesia was calculated.

RESULTS: Interobserver agreements for pain scores were good, and that for sedation scores was fair. On the basis of observer 1's MCPS scores, a greater proportion of cats in the negative control group received rescue analgesia than in the bupivacaine or positive control groups. Scores from observer 2 indicated a greater proportion of cats in the negative control group than in the positive control group required rescue analgesia but identified no significant difference between the negative control and bupivacaine groups for this variable. Overall, disagreement regarding need for rescue analgesia was identified for 22 of 360 (6.1%) paired observations.

CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL RELEVANCE. Interobserver differences in assessing pain can lead to different conclusions regarding treatment effectiveness.