Acute postoperative pain is followed by persistent pain in 10-50% of individuals after common operations, such as groin hernia repair, breast and thoracic surgery, leg amputation, and coronary artery bypass surgery. Since chronic pain can be severe in about 2-10% of these patients, persistent postsurgical pain represents a major, largely unrecognised clinical problem. Iatrogenic neuropathic pain is probably the most important cause of long-term postsurgical pain. Consequently, surgical techniques that avoid nerve damage should be applied whenever possible. Also, the effect of aggressive, early therapy for postoperative pain should be investigated, since the intensity of acute postoperative pain correlates with the risk of developing a persistent pain state. Finally, the role of genetic factors should be studied, since only a proportion of patients with intraoperative nerve damage develop chronic pain. Based on information about the molecular mechanisms that affect changes to the peripheral and central nervous system in neuropathic pain, several opportunities exist for multimodal pharmacological intervention. Here, we outline strategies for identification of patients at risk and for prevention and possible treatment of this important entity of chronic pain.