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ASA: Post-Op Pain Management Improves in Past Decade

Far fewer patients report serious pain two weeks after surgery

TUESDAY, Oct. 14, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- The percentage of American patients who experience serious postoperative pain appears to have fallen significantly over the past decade, a new survey reveals. These findings were presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Anesthesiologists, held from Oct. 11 to 15 in New Orleans.

A survey conducted between 1998 and 2002 found that nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of the 129 patients polled had experienced moderate-to-severe pain during the first couple of weeks following their hospital discharge. For the new study, a new post-surgery pain survey was conducted among 441 hospital inpatients. All participants were asked to describe the degree to which they were satisfied with the pain treatment they were given. They were also asked to rank the severity of any postoperative pain they were experiencing, ranging from no pain to extreme pain. Both questions were posed before hospital discharge, and then again one, two, and three weeks following surgery.

In comparing the two-week mark in both surveys, the team found no shift in the percentage of patients (22 percent) who said they experienced no pain after surgery. In addition, patient satisfaction with the pain medications they were offered remained fairly comparable across polls, with 83 percent saying they were "satisfied" or "very satisfied" in 2003, compared with 87 percent in 2014. However, when it came to moderate-to-extreme pain two weeks after surgery, the change was dramatic: the proportion of patients experiencing such pain plummeted from 63 percent in 2003 to 39 percent by 2014.

"In the last 20 years, our understanding of the way different classes of pain medicine work has improved, enabling physicians and anesthesiologists to combine different drugs to better treat the specific needs of each patient. And this has led to a decrease in the incidence of serious post-op pain," study author Asokumar Buvanendran, M.D., director of orthopedic anesthesia at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, told HealthDay.

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