Preoperative frailty and its association with postsurgical pain in an older patient cohort

Reg Anesth Pain Med. 2019 May 6;rapm-2018-100247. doi: 10.1136/rapm-2018-100247. Online ahead of print.


Background and objectives: Chronic postsurgical pain in patients over 65 negatively impacts recovery, quality of life and physical functioning. In the community setting, chronic pain has been shown to be related to frailty, a syndrome more commonly seen in older adults and characterized by limited physiologic reserve and ability to withstand stressors. While frailty is an important preoperative risk factor for poor surgical outcomes in older adults, the relationship between frailty and postsurgical pain in this population has not been investigated. We hypothesized that preoperative frailty would be associated with greater odds of postsurgical chronic pain.

Methods: We conducted a prospective cohort study of 116 patients older than 65 years old who underwent major elective non-cardiac surgery. Patients were assessed for frailty within 30 days prior to surgery using the FRAIL Scale assessment and pain was evaluated before surgery and at 3 months after surgery using the Geriatric Pain Measure.

Results: After adjusting for baseline characteristics, we found that frail patients were almost five times more likely to have intrusive postsurgical pain compared with patients who were not frail (OR 4.73, 95% CI 1.24 to 18.09). Intrusive preoperative pain and spine surgery were also associated with increased postsurgical pain (OR 10.13, 95% CI 2.81 to 36.57 and OR 4.02, 95% CI 1.22 to 13.17, respectively).

Conclusion: Although future studies are needed to establish a causal relationship between preoperative frailty and postsurgical pain, our findings suggest that older patients should have preoperative frailty assessments and frail older adults may need additional resources to improve postsurgical pain outcomes.

Trial registration number: NCT02650687.

Keywords: pain measurement; pain medicine; postoperative pain; surgical outcome.

Associated data