Background: Postoperative pain management is important for patients' well-being and mobility. It also reduces the length of hospital stays and prevents complications. Based on our own clinical experience, data on pain in cancer patients from Norway and on postoperative pain from other countries, we expected that a substantial proportion of patients staying in Norwegian hospitals would report postoperative pain of high intensity.
Material and methods: 215 in-patients from 14 Norwegian hospitals participated in a study of pain during the first 24 hours after operations. The study was based on medical records and data reported by the patients themselves.
Results: On an 11-point numerical scale, the mean intensity of pain was 3.0 (SD 2.1) during the first 24 hours. 8 % of patients reported that the intensity of even the weakest pain during rest had been ≥ 4, 38 % reported a mean intensity ≥ 4 and 11 % reported a mean ≥ 6. The medical records contained information about the intensity of postoperative pain for only 22 % of the patients. Reports from patients indicated that 52 % had been asked to report the intensity of pain on a scale as part of the hospital routine, while 78 % and 74 % had been asked about the need for additional pain alleviation and whether the medication was effective.
Interpretation: Many patients reported pain of strong intensity during the first 24 hours after operations. There is a great potential for improved documentation and treatment of pain.