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Lancet. 1999 Jun 12;353(9169):2051-8.

Acute pain.

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Department of Anesthesia and Medicine, Tufts University School of Medicine, New England Medical Center, Boston, MA 02111, USA.


Postanaesthesia care units used to echo with cries of patients in pain after general anaesthesia. Each as-needed dose of analgesia was given only after permission of the surgeon or anaesthesiologist. Once conscious, patients were required to request each subsequent analgesic dose until hospital discharge. Not surprisingly, nearly half the patients who have an operation experience moderate to severe pain after surgery. Acute pain control has advanced dramatically and is now a field with dedicated texts, journals, and research. Despite improved surgical techniques that have transformed many operations into same-day procedures, inadequately controlled pain may still extend the length of hospital stay and predispose to expensive, time-consuming complications such as pneumonia. Recognition of economic and humanitarian benefits of pain control has prompted worldwide attention from professional groups, insurers, and governments. This paper describes the process of acute pain and measures to control it with drugs or non-pharmacological interventions. Even brief intervals of acute pain can induce long-term neuronal remodelling and sensitisation ("plasticity"), chronic pain, and lasting psychologial distress. Hence, acute pain and other types of pain (cancer-related or chronic) that are classified as distinct actually have many similarities.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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