A survey of patients’ understanding and expectations of persistent postsurgical pain in a preoperative testing cente

Oliver, J.B. et al. Journal of Clinical Anesthesia, Volume 34. pp. 494-501


  • We conducted a preoperative survey of patients’ expectations of postoperative pain.
  • Patients are poorly informed of their risk for persistent postsurgical pain.
  • Patients expected more pain after surgery than they deemed acceptable.
  • Female patients and those in pain were more concerned about postoperative pain.

B0005910 Back pain
Image source: Bill McConkey – Wellcome Images // CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

Study Objective: Acute postoperative pain may transition to persistent/chronic pain in up to 50% or more of patients after certain surgeries. Despite this concern, it is unclear that patients’ preprocedure understanding and expectations are aligned with these potential outcomes. This study was designed to evaluate the extent of this alignment and the potential impact on the quality of risk/benefit discussions before procedures.


Measurements: The survey items evaluated patients’ expectations of postoperative pain and how familiar patients were with the risk of persistent postsurgical pain based on their specific characteristics and procedure type.

Main Results: The overwhelming majority (80%) of patients were unaware of the risk of persistent postsurgical pain. Given the choice, most patients (65%) wanted to be informed of their risk, and 25% stated that it might even affect their decision to proceed with surgery.

Conclusions: There is great need for health care providers to discuss the significant risk of persistent postsurgical pain with patients in the preoperative setting. Patients need to be armed with realistic data to ensure high-quality discussions of risk/benefit, align expectations with outcomes, and potentially identify high-risk groups in which preoperative intervention can reduce the likelihood or severity of persistent postoperative pain syndromes.

Read the abstract here


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