Kildal, Stadskleiv, Boysen, Øderud, Dahl, Seeberg, Guldal, Strisland, Morland & Hassel (2021): Increased heart rate functions as a signal of acute distress in non-communicating persons with intellectual disability
I: Scientific Reports. Online first. Open Access
Emilie Kildal, Kristine Stadskleiv, Elin S. Boysen, Tone Øderud, Inger-Lise Dahl, Trine M. Seeberg, Svein Guldal, Frode Strisland, Cecilie Morland & Bjørnar Hassel
Intellectual disability (ID) affects approximately 1% of the population. Some patients with severe or profound ID are essentially non-communicating and therefore risk experiencing pain and distress without being able to notify their caregivers, which is a major health issue. This real-world proof of concept study aimed to see if heart rate (HR) monitoring could reveal whether non-communicating persons with ID experience acute pain or distress in their daily lives. We monitored HR in 14 non-communicating participants with ID in their daily environment to see if specific situations were associated with increased HR. We defined increased HR as being > 1 standard deviation above the daily mean and lasting > 5 s. In 11 out of 14 participants, increased HR indicated pain or distress in situations that were not previously suspected to be stressful, e.g. passive stretching of spastic limbs or being transported in patient lifts. Increased HR suggesting joy was detected in three participants (during car rides, movies). In some situations that were previously suspected to be stressful, absence of HR increase suggested absence of pain or distress. We conclude that HR monitoring may identify acute pain and distress in non-communicating persons with ID, allowing for improved health care for this patient group.