DOI: 10.1213/ane.0000000000006848 ISSN: 0003-2999

A Prospective Cohort Study of Acute Pain and In-Hospital Opioid Consumption After Cardiac Surgery: Associations With Psychological and Medical Factors and Chronic Postsurgical Pain

M. Gabrielle Pagé, Praveen Ganty, Dorothy Wong, Vivek Rao, James Khan, Karim Ladha, John Hanlon, Sarah Miles, Rita Katznelson, Duminda Wijeysundera, Joel Katz, Hance Clarke
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


Understanding the association of acute pain intensity and opioid consumption after cardiac surgery with chronic postsurgical pain (CPSP) can facilitate implementation of personalized prevention measures to improve outcomes. The objectives were to (1) examine acute pain intensity and daily mg morphine equivalent dose (MME/day) trajectories after cardiac surgery, (2) identify factors associated with pain intensity and opioid consumption trajectories, and (3) assess whether pain intensity and opioid consumption trajectories are risk factors for CPSP.


Prospective observational cohort study design conducted between August 2012 and June 2020 with 1-year follow-up. A total of 1115 adults undergoing cardiac surgery were recruited from the preoperative clinic. Of the 959 participants included in the analyses, 573 completed the 1-year follow-up. Main outcomes were pain intensity scores and MME/day consumption over the first 6 postoperative days (PODs) analyzed using latent growth mixture modeling (GMM). Secondary outcome was 12-month CPSP status.


Participants were mostly male (76%), with a mean age of 61 ± 13 years. Three distinct linear acute postoperative pain intensity trajectories were identified: “initially moderate pain intensity remaining moderate” (n = 62), “initially mild pain intensity remaining mild” (n = 221), and “initially moderate pain intensity decreasing to mild” (n = 251). Age, sex, emotional distress in response to bodily sensations, and sensitivity to pain traumatization were significantly associated with pain intensity trajectories. Three distinct opioid consumption trajectories were identified on the log MME/day: “initially high level of MME/day gradually decreasing” (n = 89), “initially low level of MME/day remaining low” (n = 108), and “initially moderate level of MME/day decreasing to low” (n = 329). Age and emotional distress in response to bodily sensations were associated with trajectory membership. Individuals in the “initially mild pain intensity remaining mild” trajectory were less likely than those in the “initially moderate pain intensity remaining moderate” trajectory to report CPSP (odds ratio [95% confidence interval, CI], 0.23 [0.06–0.88]). No significant associations were observed between opioid consumption trajectory membership and CPSP status (odds ratio [95% CI], 0.84 [0.28–2.54] and 0.95 [0.22–4.13]).


Those with moderate pain intensity right after surgery are more likely to develop CPSP suggesting that those patients should be flagged early on in their postoperative recovery to attempt to alter their trajectory and prevent CPSP. Emotional distress in response to bodily sensations is the only consistent modifiable factor associated with both pain and opioid trajectories.

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