Pain and Functionality Following Sternotomy: A Prospective 12-Month Observational Study

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Abstract

Objective. To document pain levels, functionality, and analgesic use in the 12 months following a sternotomy to identify factors associated with the development of persistent post-sternotomy pain.

Design. Prospective observational study.

Settings. Royal Hobart Hospital, Australia.

Subjects. Patients undergoing a sternotomy between January and November 2013.

Methods. One hundred and ten patients were recruited and followed for 12 months, with telephone calls at 10 days, 6 weeks, 3 months, and 12 months. An initial survey was completed at the point of recruitment including patient history, depression and anxiety scales, self-rated health, and pain catastrophizing scale.

Results. The mean age of participants was 69.6 years, with the majority of participants being male (84.5%). The proportion of patients reporting pain in the early post-discharge period was high, with 30% of patients experiencing on average moderate-severe pain in the 10 days following discharge and 11% experiencing on average moderate-severe pain at 6 weeks. At 12 months, 15.5% of participants reported on average mild pain and 0.9% an average of moderate-severe pain in the preceding week at their sternotomy site. Pain of neuropathic origin was reported by 41.2% of those with on average daily pain at 12 months. Conclusion: This study highlights the need for further research to investigate whether more intensive pain management in the post-discharge period following sternotomy as well as the early identification of patients with neuropathic pain symptoms can reduce the incidence of persistent post-operative pain at 12 months.

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