Pain management in patients with vascular disease

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Abstract

Vascular disease covers a wide range of conditions, including arterial, venous, and lymphatic disorders, with many of these being more common in the elderly. As the population ages, the incidence of vascular disease will increase, with a consequent increase in the requirement to manage both acute and chronic pain in this patient population. Pain management can be complex, as there are often multiple co-morbidities to be considered. An understanding of the underlying pain mechanisms is helpful in the logical direction of treatment, particularly in chronic pain states, such as phantom limb pain or complex regional pain syndrome. Acute pain management for vascular surgery presents a number of challenges, including coexisting anticoagulant medication, that may preclude the use of regional techniques. Within the limited evidence base, there is a suggestion that epidural analgesia provides better pain relief and reduced respiratory complications after major vascular surgery. For carotid endarterectomy, there is again some evidence supporting the use of local anaesthetic analgesia, either by infiltration or by superficial cervical plexus block. Chronic pain in vascular disease includes post-amputation pain, for which well-known risk factors include high pain levels before amputation and in the immediate postoperative period, emphasizing the importance of good pain control in the perioperative period. Complex regional pain syndrome is another challenging chronic pain syndrome with a wide variety of treatment options available, with the strongest evidence being for physical therapies. Further research is required to gain a better understanding of the underlying pathophysiological mechanisms in pain associated with vascular disease and the best analgesic approaches to manage it.

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