Chronic pain after cardiac surgery: a prospective study

Acta Anaesthesiol Scand. 2010 Jan;54(1):70-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1399-6576.2009.02097.x. Epub 2009 Aug 13.


Background: Chronic pain is a complication of several surgical procedures. The prevalence of chronic pain reported after cardiac surgery varies from 18% to 61%. However, most studies are retrospective, do not use validated instruments for pain measurement or include only pain at the sternum site. The aim of the present study was to assess chronic pain and health-related quality of life (HRQOL) after cardiac surgery.

Methods: In a prospective, population-based study, we included 534 patients (413 males) and assessed chronic pain and HRQOL before, 6 months after, and 12 months after cardiac surgery. Pain was measured by the Brief Pain Inventory, while HRQOL was measured by the Short-Form 36 (SF-36).

Results: Five hundred and twenty-one patients were alive 12 months after surgery; 462 (89%) and 465 (89%) responded after 6 and 12 months, respectively. Chronic pain was reported by 11% of the patients at both measurements. Younger age was associated with chronic pain [odds ratio 0.7 (95% confidence interval: 0.5-0.9)] at 12 months. Patients with chronic pain reported lower scores on seven of eight SF-36 subscales.

Discussion: In conclusion, we observed a lower prevalence of chronic pain after cardiac surgery than in previous studies. Still, more than one out of 10 patients reported chronic pain after cardiac surgery. Chronic pain appears to affect HRQOL. Thus, given the large number of patients subjected to cardiac surgery, this study confirms that chronic pain after cardiac surgery is an important health care issue.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cardiovascular Surgical Procedures / adverse effects*
  • Chronic Disease
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain, Postoperative / epidemiology*
  • Prevalence
  • Prospective Studies
  • Quality of Life*
  • Risk Factors
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult