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Reg Anesth Pain Med. 1999 Jan-Feb;24(1):68-73.

10 years of acute pain services--achievements and challenges.

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Department of Anesthesiology, Orebro Medical Centre Hospital, Sweden.


Despite unprecedented interest in understanding pain mechanisms and pain management, a significant number of patients continue to experience unacceptable pain after surgery. Recent surveys show that there has been no apparent improvement since an early study in 1952 (15). It is increasingly clear that the solution to the problems of postoperative pain management lies not so much in the development of new techniques but in developing an organization to exploit existing expertise. The most obvious components of an acute pain team include anesthesiologists, surgeons, nurses, and physiotherapists. Protocols encourage consistent standards of safe and effective care and should be used as a framework to individualize treatment. The concept of skilled pain therapists collaborating to provide improved postoperative analgesia within the framework of an organized APS appears to be universally applicable. Acute pain service models have been described from the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Switzerland, and Sweden. The U.S. model, which consists of anesthesiologist-based comprehensive pain management teams, is quite effective but is more expensive, and it is not transferable to Europe. A recent United Kingdom survey showed that there is a large degree of variation in what is thought to constitute an APS in the U.K. (16). A nurse-based anesthesiologist-supervised APS in which pain is evaluated in every patient who undergoes surgery has been developed in Sweden. Pain above 3 on the 10-grade VAS is promptly treated. Clearly, neither the anesthesiologist nor the APN guarantees good pain management on wards. In this low-cost model, the role of the anesthesiologist is to teach and train ward nurses, to supervise the APN, and to select patients for special pain therapies such as epidural, PCA, and peripheral nerve blocks. All senior anesthesiologists (section chiefs) working in the operating room are part of this APS. The means of providing satisfactory analgesia are already present in most hospitals. Careful planning and a multidisciplinary approach to pain management will ensure that resources are optimally utilized, and the quality of pain management is consistently maintained.

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