Postoperative Pain Experience: Results from a National Survey Suggest Postoperative Pain Continues to Be Undermanaged

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Postoperative pain can have a significant effect on patient recovery. An understanding of patient attitudes and concerns about postoperative pain is important for identifying ways health care professionals can improve postoperative care. To assess patients’ postoperative pain experience and the status of acute pain management, we conducted a national study by using telephone questionnaires. A random sample of 250 adults who had undergone surgical procedures recently in the United States was obtained from National Family Opinion. Patients were asked about the severity of postsurgical pain, treatment, satisfaction with pain medication, patient education, and perceptions about postoperative pain and pain medications. Approximately 80% of patients experienced acute pain after surgery. Of these patients, 86% had moderate, severe, or extreme pain, with more patients experiencing pain after discharge than before discharge. Experiencing postoperative pain was the most common concern (59%) of patients. Almost 25% of patients who received pain medications experienced adverse effects; however, almost 90% of them were satisfied with their pain medications. Approximately two thirds of patients reported that a health care professional talked with them about their pain. Despite an increased focus on pain management programs and the development of new standards for pain management, many patients continue to experience intense pain after surgery. Additional efforts are required to improve patients’ postoperative pain experience.

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