High-frequency, high-intensity transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation as treatment of pain after surgical abortion

Pain. 2010 Jan;148(1):114-119. doi: 10.1016/j.pain.2009.10.023. Epub 2009 Dec 2.


The aim of the study was to compare the pain-relieving effect and the time spent in the recovery ward after treatment with high-frequency, high-intensity transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) or intravenous (IV) conventional pharmacological treatment after surgical abortion. Two-hundred women who underwent surgical abortion and postoperatively reported a visual analogue scale (VAS) pain score3 were included. The patients were randomised to TENS or conventional pharmacological treatment for their postoperative pain. The TENS treatment was given with a stimulus intensity between 20 and 60 mA during 1 min and repeated once if insufficient pain relief (VAS3). In the conventional pharmacological treatment group, a maximum dose of 100 microg fentanyl was given IV. There was no difference between the groups with regard to pain relief according to the VAS pain score (TENS=VAS 1.3 vs. IV opioids=VAS 1.6; p=0.09) upon discharge from the recovery ward. However, the patients in the TENS group spent shorter time (44 min) in the recovery ward than the conventional pharmacological treatment group (62 min; p<0.0001). The number of patients who needed additional analgesics in the recovery ward was comparable in both groups, as was the reported VAS pain score upon leaving the hospital (TENS=2.0 vs. conventional pharmacological treatment=1.8, NS). These results suggest that the pain-relieving effect of TENS seems to be comparable to conventional pharmacological treatment with IV opioids. Hence, TENS may be a suitable alternative to conventional pain management with IV opioids after surgical abortion.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Induced / adverse effects
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Analgesia, Obstetrical / methods
  • Biophysics / methods
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Pain Measurement / methods
  • Pain, Postoperative / etiology*
  • Pain, Postoperative / therapy*
  • Transcutaneous Electric Nerve Stimulation / methods*
  • Young Adult