“We believe providers need to do a better job of counselling patients on realistic pain expectations,” said study co-author Dr Jaime Baratta, director of regional anaesthesia at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia.
The research included 223 patients. Of these, 96 received some form of regional anaesthesia (spinal, epidural or peripheral nerve block). The remaining 127 patients received only general anaesthesia.
Before their surgery, the patients estimated what level of post-operative pain they expected on a 0-10 scale (10 being the most painful). After surgery, they were asked about their level of pain in the post-anesthesia care unit one hour following surgery and again on the first day after surgery.
The patients’ average expected pain rating immediately after surgery was 4.7, while their actual pain rating was 2.6. The average expected pain rating on the first day after surgery was 5.5, compared with an actual pain rating of 4.3.
Patients who had regional anaesthesia had an average expected pain rating immediately after surgery of 4.6, while their actual pain rating was less than 1. The average expected pain rating for these patients on the first day after surgery was 5.5, compared with an actual pain rating of 3.5.
The study was presented last week at the American Society of Anaesthesiologists annual meeting in Boston.
“Given the clear benefit of patient education and anxiety alleviation on post-operative pain, providers must find ways to effectively manage patient expectations to help improve outcomes,” said the study’s co-author Dr Amir Dayan, an anaesthesiologist who’s also from Jefferson University Hospital.
New York Times