Parent-reported pain in Rett syndrome

Frank J. Symons, Breanne Byiers, Raymond C. Tervo, Arthur Beisang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Objectives: Clinical reports suggest that patients with Rett syndrome (RTT) live with significant chronic health issues as well as severe motor and communication impairments. Consequently, patients with RTT may be at risk for living with pain but not having it recognized. The purpose of this preliminary study was to document parent reported estimates of pain frequency, pain communication, and pain source. Methods: Caregivers of 44 patients with clinically diagnosed RTT (mean RTT age = 21.5, SD = 13.5) completed a health survey about their daughter that contained a number of items specific to pain from the Non-Communicating Children's Pain Checklist - Revised. Survey Results: Among survey responders, 24% reported that their child had experienced pain on 8 or more days (> 1 week) in the previous 30 days. The most frequent form of pain communication was facial expression (85%) and vocalization (82%, eg, moan, cry). The most commonly reported pain source was gastro-intestinal (66%). Pain frequency was significantly (P < 0.05) correlated with age (0.41), number of pain sources (0.72), and number of health problems (0.45); and the number pain sources was significantly (P < 0.05) correlated with number of health problems (0.67). Discussion: These preliminary results suggest that pain is a problem for a significant subgroup of patients with RTT. Almost one quarter of respondents indicated their daughters experience over a week of pain per month. The frequent health and communication issues associated with RTT suggest an increased risk that pain may be overlooked or discounted in this vulnerable population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)744-746
Number of pages3
JournalClinical Journal of Pain
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2013


  • Developmental disability
  • Pain
  • Rett syndrome

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