Prevalence, Location, and Characteristics of Chronic Pain in Intensive Care Survivors

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A growing number of studies have addressed the long-term consequences of intensive care unit (ICU) treatment, but few have studied the prevalence of chronic pain and pain characteristics longitudinally.


The goal of the work described here was to investigate the prevalence and characteristics of chronic pain in ICU survivors 3 months and 1 year after ICU discharge and to identify risk factors for chronic pain 1 year after ICU discharge.


The design used was an explorative and longitudinal study.


The patients in this work had stayed >48 hours in two mixed ICUs in Oslo University Hospital, a tertiary referral hospital.


Patients completed a survey questionnaire 3 months and 1 year after ICU discharge. Pain was assessed using the Brief Pain Inventory–Short Form.


At 3 months after discharge, 58 of 118 ICU survivors (49.2%) reported pain, and at 1 year after discharge, 34 of 89 survivors (38.2%) reported pain. The most common sites of pain at 3 months were the shoulder and abdomen; the shoulder remained the second most common site at 1 year. There was an increase in the interference of pain with daily life at 1 year. Possible risk factors for chronic pain at 1 year were increased severity of illness, organ failure, ventilator time >12 days, and ICU length of stay >15 days. The most common sites of pain were not linked to the admission diagnosis.


These findings may enable health care providers to improve care and rehabilitation for this patient group.

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