Risk for Violent Behavior in Patients with Chronic Pain: Evaluation and Management in the Pain Facility Setting

David A. Fishbain, R. Brian Cutler, Hubert L. Rosomoff, Renee Steele-Rosomoff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

23 Scopus citations


Objective. Recent evidence indicates that physicians are at high risk for patient-perpetrated violence. The objectives of this article, in association with case reports of patients with chronic pain (PWCP), are the following: to review the literature and determine if pain physicians could be at risk for PWCP-perpetrated violence; to review the current evaluation and management procedures for potentially violent patients; and to identify some situations specific to PWCPs that can heighten the risk of PWCP-perpetrated violence. Design. Previous literature on patient-perpetrated violence against physicians was reviewed. In addition, literature on the evaluation for risk of violent behavior and management of violent behavior was also reviewed. Seven potentially violent PWCPs are described, including some who had threatened pain physicians and institutions. PWCP-specific situations thought to be instrumental in increasing the risk of PWCP-associated violence were identified. Setting. Pain facility (multidisciplinary center). Results of Review and Analysis of Case Reports. The literature on patient-perpetrated violence against physicians indicates that, statistically, pain physicians could be at risk for this type of violence. Seven PWCP cases of threatened or potentially violent behavior are described. These case report data indicate that PWCPs with the potential for violence against physicians or institutions do present for treatment at pain facilities. All seven PWCPs were in a number of situations specific to chronic pain that increased the possibility of violent behavior. These situations are described. Conclusions. In the evaluation for risk of violence against physicians or institutions by PWCPs, one needs to understand PWCP-specific situations. Management of potential violent behavior cannot be effective without this understanding.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)140-155
Number of pages16
JournalPain Medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 2000



  • Chronic pain
  • Pain facility
  • Violence risk

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology

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