Influence of expectations and actual pain experiences on satisfaction with postoperative pain management

Eur J Pain. 2001;5(2):125-33. doi: 10.1053/eujp.2001.0227.


Experience of moderate or even severe postoperative pain has remained a clinical problem despite major progress in pain assessment and management. The aim of the present study was to assess any association between different pre- as well as postoperative factors, actual pain experiences in the postoperative period, and the overall patient satisfaction with the pain management. A random sample of surgical patients (n =191) responded to pre- and postoperative questionnaires detailing presence of preoperative baseline pain, expected and actually experienced postoperative pain levels and perceived adequacy of the pain relief provided. Patient satisfaction was assessed and factors of importance for satisfaction/dissatisfaction were analysed. It was found that 88% of the patients had previously undergone surgical procedures and that 53% of these patients claimed to have experienced moderate or severe pain at that time. Current pain prior to the present surgical procedure was reported by 61% of the patients. Most patients (91%) expected pain of moderate to severe intensity and 76% reported to have experienced such pain levels. In spite of this 81% of the patients claimed to be satisfied with the pain management while only 8% were dissatisfied. Sex, age, pre-operative expectation and actual experience of pain relief, and the overall pain experience were found to be factors associated with the probability of being satisfied/dissatisfied. Main characteristics of the dissatisfied patient were a younger age and female sex. It is concluded that patients commonly expect moderate to severe pain in the postoperative period and that the actual pain experience is mainly in accordance with the pre-operative expectations. Therefore, the validity of patient satisfaction as an optimal outcome variable in quality assurance processes of postoperative pain management may be questioned.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Analgesia / standards*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain, Postoperative / psychology*
  • Pain, Postoperative / therapy*
  • Patient Satisfaction*
  • Quality of Health Care
  • Treatment Outcome