• analgesia;
  • chronic kidney disease;
  • chronic renal failure;
  • dialysis;
  • end-stage kidney disease;
  • end-stage renal failure;
  • pain assessment;
  • pain management

Aims and objectives.  This paper reviews the literature concerning nurses’ assessment and management of pain in adult patients with chronic kidney disease, and proposes implications for clinical practice to support the control of pain in these patients.

Background.  Chronic kidney disease is a worldwide public health concern with increasing incidence and prevalence, poor patient outcomes and high cost. Patients with kidney disease often experience pain. Optimal pain assessment and management are key clinical activities; however, inadequate pain control by health professionals persists. Renal failure compounds this problem because of the small margin between pain relief and toxicity, and the patient's concomitant health problems.

Conclusions.  The literature review uses 93 articles that were published in medical- and other health-related journals, including 12 medical and pharmaceutical studies specifically relating to pain control in adults with kidney disease. Very little research has been conducted on pain in patients with kidney disease prior to requiring dialysis or kidney transplantation for survival. However, past research showed pain is common and analgesics are underprescribed in patients on dialysis in end-stage kidney disease. The review indicates that an interest in nephrotoxicity and analgesic-induced morbidity dominates over an interest in pain relief in patients with kidney disease. Most analgesics are excreted renally or by the liver, and the use of simple analgesics such as paracetamol is cautioned.

Relevance to clinical practice.  Findings from the literature review highlight specific difficulties relating to effective pain control in patients with chronic kidney disease. Research is required to identify and overcome barriers to effective pain management, including the development of specific tools to facilitate interventions that optimize analgesic outcomes in patients with chronic kidney disease.