Acute postoperative pain after arthroscopic rotator cuff surgery: A review of methods of pain assessment

SICOT J. 2018:4:49. doi: 10.1051/sicotj/2018042. Epub 2018 Nov 22.


Introduction: Pain can be severe during the first days after arthroscopic surgery, and acute pain is an important outcome in clinical trials of surgical technique or anaesthetic strategy. A standardized, validated method of assessing acute postoperative pain would improve the quality of clinical studies, and facilitate systematic reviews and meta-analyses. A step on the way towards this standard is to investigate the methods most commonly used in recent literature.

Methods: PubMed and CINAHL databases were searched, including studies of arthroscopic rotator cuff surgery with a primary pain-related outcome during the first postoperative week, published in English from 2012 to 2017.

Results: A total of 47 studies were included, all measuring pain intensity using a pain rating scale. Most frequently used was the visual analogue scale using the anchors "no pain" and "worst pain imaginable", with recordings at 1, 2, 4, 6, 8, 12, and 24 hours postoperatively. A total of 34 studies recorded analgesic consumption, usually as average cumulated consumption in mg. Time to first analgesic request or first pain were recorded in 11 studies, and 4 different starting points were used.

Discussion: This review describes the currently most common methods of assessing acute postoperative pain in clinical trials of arthroscopic shoulder surgery involving rotator cuff repair, and the large variety of methods applied. Based on this study and international guidelines, several recommendations on how to measure and report postoperative pain outcomes in future trials are proposed.