Recent evidence points to an association between experimental pain measures obtained preoperatively and acute postoperative pain (POP). We hypothesized that pain temporal summation (TS) might be an additional predictor for POP insofar as it represents the neuroplastic changes that occur in the central nervous system following surgery. Therefore, a wide range of psychophysical tests (TS to heat and mechanical repetitive stimuli, pain threshold, and suprathreshold pain estimation) and personality tests (pain catastrophizing and anxiety levels) were administered prior to thoracotomy in 84 patients. POP ratings were evaluated on the 2nd and 5th days after surgery at rest (spontaneous pain) and in response to activity (provoked pain). Linear regression models revealed that among all assessed variables, enhanced TS and higher pain scores for mechanical stimulation were significantly associated with greater provoked POP intensity (overall r2 = 0.225, P = .008). Patients who did not demonstrate TS to both modalities reported lower scores of provoked POP as compared with patients who demonstrated TS in response to at least 1 modality (F = 4.59 P = .013). Despite the moderate association between pain catastrophizing and rest POP, none of the variables predicted the spontaneous POP intensity. These findings suggest that individual susceptibility toward a greater summation response may characterize patients who are potentially vulnerable to augmented POP.
Perspective: This study proposed the role of pain temporal summation assessed preoperatively as a significant psychophysical predictor for acute postoperative pain intensity. The individual profile of enhanced pain summation is associated with the greater likelihood of higher postoperative pain scores.