Predictors of pain intensity and disability after minor hand surgery

J Hand Surg Am. 2010 Jun;35(6):956-60. doi: 10.1016/j.jhsa.2010.02.001. Epub 2010 Apr 9.


Purpose: To test the null hypothesis that there is no relationship between coping mechanisms and depression measured before surgery, and pain intensity and disability after surgery, as assessed at the time of suture removal.

Methods: A total of 120 patients (39 electing surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome, 65 for trigger finger, and 16 for a benign tumor) completed questionnaires measuring depression, pain self-efficacy (confidence that one can perform various activities despite pain), pain anxiety (fear and anxiety in response to pain sensations), and pain catastrophizing (maladaptive cognitive activities such as pain-related rumination, magnification, and helplessness) before surgery. Before the surgery and at the time of suture removal (10 to 14 days after surgery) participants completed the Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder, and Hand questionnaire (DASH) and a numerical pain intensity rating scale.

Results: At the time of suture removal, there was a significant correlation between pain intensity and depression (r = 0.45, p<.001), pain catastrophizing (r = 0.41, p<.001), pain anxiety (r = 0.32, p<.01), and self-efficacy (r = -0.29, p<.01). Disability correlated with self-efficacy (r = -0.34; p<.001) and depression (r = 0.49; p<.001), but not with pain anxiety and catastrophizing (p>.05). In multivariate analyses, depression was the sole predictor of both disability and pain intensity and accounted for 26% of the variance in DASH scores and 25% of the variance in pain intensity, after removing the influence of preoperative DASH and diagnosis, which accounted for 14% variance.

Conclusions: Psychosocial factors, especially depression, explain a notable proportion of the variation in pain intensity and disability after minor hand surgery.

Type of study/level of evidence: Prognostic I.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Pain Measurement
  • Pain, Postoperative / epidemiology*
  • Pain, Postoperative / psychology*
  • Soft Tissue Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Trigger Finger Disorder / surgery*