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Anesth Analg. 2002 Sep;95(3):627-34, table of contents.

Pain as a factor complicating recovery and discharge after ambulatory surgery.

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Department of Anesthesiology, University of Washington, 1959 NE Pacific, Seattle, WA 98195, USA.


Pain complicates the recovery process after ambulatory surgery. We surveyed 175 ambulatory surgery patients to determine pain severity, analgesic use, relationship of pain to duration of recovery, and the relative importance of various factors to predicting these outcomes. Multivariate regression analysis was used to determine unique contributions of predictor variables to outcome. Surgical procedures included knee arthroscopy (n = 50), hernia surgery (n = 25), pelvic laparoscopy (n = 25), transvaginal uterine surgery (n = 25), surgery for breast disease (n = 25), and plastic surgery (n = 25). Maximum pain (on a scale of 0-10) varied from 2.3 +/- 0.5 to 5.1 +/- 0.5 (mean +/- SE), depending on surgical procedure; 24% of patients had pain scores of > or =7, and 24% were delayed in Phase 1 recovery by pain. Pain scores were lower if local anesthetic or ketorolac was administered intraoperatively (22% and 26% respectively). Fentanyl dose during recovery correlated with maximum pain scores; fentanyl dose was 42% less if ketorolac was administered intraoperatively. In females, the recovery fentanyl dose increased in proportion to the intraoperative fentanyl dose. The maximum pain score was predictive of total recovery time (135, 172, and 212 min of recovery for maximum pain scores of 0-3, 4-6, and 7-10, respectively; P < 0.001). We conclude that improvements in pain therapy are warranted to improve patient comfort and to expedite recovery.


Moderate to severe pain is common after ambulatory surgery and is a frequent cause of delayed discharge. Postoperative pain, opioid-related side effects, and time to discharge were less when nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs or local anesthetics were used intraoperatively to prevent pain before patient awakening.

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