Pain progression, intensity and outcomes following tonsillectomy

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Abstract

The objective of this study was to assess outcomes of pediatric day surgery tonsillectomy. A total of 129 children, aged 5–16 years, and their parents were recruited from three urban hospitals which provided pediatric day surgery. Children reported pain on a visual analogue scale (VAS) in day surgery and then daily at home for 7 days. Parents reported outcomes of surgery, including fluid intake, nausea, vomiting and sleep disturbances. They also recorded analgesic administration. Three main results related to extent and duration of pain, quality of management of pain, and effect of pain on utilization of health services. Tonsillectomy caused considerable pain which lasted more than 7 days. Pain followed a trajectory of intense or moderately intense pain for the first 3 days followed by a gradual decline over the next 4 days. In general, post-tonsillectomy pain was poorly managed by health professionals and parents. An unexpected observation was that children who had a bupivacaine infiltration of the tonsil fossa during surgery had significantly more pain in the evening of surgery than children who did not have an infiltration. The increase in postoperative pain experienced by those who had the infiltration was attributed to quality of pain management. Children with persistent pain (those who did not follow the typical trajectory) were likely to be taken to a medical practitioner. One-third of the sample made unscheduled visits to practitioners with most occurring from Day 4 to Day 7 of the follow-up.

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