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Pain. 2015 Apr;156(4):609-17. doi: 10.1097/01.j.pain.0000460352.07836.0d.

Clinically derived early postoperative pain trajectories differ by age, sex, and type of surgery.

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aDepartment of Anesthesiology, University of Florida College of Medicine, Gainesville, FL, USA bUniversity of Florida College of Medicine, Gainesville, FL, USA cDepartment of Biostatistics, University of Florida College of Medicine, Gainesville, FL, USA dDepartment of Community Dentistry and Behavioral Science, University of Florida College of Dentistry, Gainesville, FL, USA.


The objective of this study was to determine the effects of age, sex, and type of surgery on postoperative pain trajectories derived in a clinical setting from pain assessments in the first 24 hours after surgery. This study is a retrospective cohort study using a large electronic medical records system to collect and analyze surgical case data. The sample population included adult patients undergoing nonambulatory nonobstetric surgery in a single institution over a 1-year period. Analyses of postoperative pain trajectories were performed using a linear mixed-effects model. Pain score observations (91,708) from 7293 patients were included in the statistical analysis. On average, the pain score decreased about 0.042 (95% confidence interval [CI]: -0.044 to -0.040) points on the numerical rating scale (NRS) per hour after surgery for the first 24 postoperative hours. The pain score reported by male patients was approximately 0.27 (95% CI: -0.380 to -0.168) NRS points lower than that reported by females. Pain scores significantly decreased over time in all age groups, with a slightly more rapid decrease for younger patients. Pain trajectories differed by anatomic location of surgery, ranging from -0.054 (95% CI: -0.062 to -0.046) NRS units per hour for integumentary and nervous surgery to -0.104 (95% CI: -0.110 to -0.098) NRS units per hour for digestive surgery, and a positive trajectory (0.02 [95% CI: 0.016 to 0.024] NRS units per hour) for musculoskeletal surgery. Our data support the important role of time after surgery in considering the influence of biopsychosocial and clinical factors on acute postoperative pain.

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