Patient coping and expectations about recovery predict the development of chronic post-surgical pain after traumatic tibial fracture repair

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The association of patient expectations about recovery with the development of chronic post-surgical pain (CPSP) is uncertain.


Three hundred and fifty-nine patients enrolled in the SPRINT trial completed the Somatic Preoccupation and Coping (SPOC) questionnaire six weeks after a traumatic tibial fracture repair. The SPOC questionnaire measures patients' somatic complaints, coping, and optimism for recovery. Using adjusted models, we explored the association of SPOC scores with ≥ mild CPSP and ≥ moderate pain interference with activity at one yr after surgery.


Of 267 tibial fracture patients with data available for analysis, 147 (55.1%) reported CPSP at one yr. The incidence of CPSP was 37.6% among those with low (≤40) SPOC scores, 54.1% among those with intermediate (41–80) scores, and 81.7% among those with high (>80) scores. Addition of SPOC scores to an adjusted regression model to predict CPSP improved the c-statistic from 0.61 (95% CI 0.55–0.68) to 0.70 (95% CI 0.64–0.76, P=0.005 for the difference) and found the greatest risk was associated with high SPOC scores (OR 6.56, 95% CI 2.90–14.81). Similarly, an adjusted regression model to predict pain interference with function at one yr (c-statistic 0.77, 95% CI 0.71–0.83) found the greatest risk for those with high SPOC scores (OR 10.10, 95% CI 4.26–23.96).


Patient's coping and expectations of recovery, as measured by the SPOC questionnaire, is an independent predictor of CPSP and pain interference one yr after traumatic tibial fracture. Future studies should explore whether these beliefs can be modified, and if doing so improves prognosis.

Clinical trial registration

NCT 00038129

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