Postoperative Pain in Neurosurgery: A Pilot Study in Brain Surgery.

Clinical Studies

Neurosurgery. 38(3):466-470, March 1996.
De Benedittis, Giuseppe M.D.; Lorenzetti, Ariberto M.D.; Migliore, Matteo M.D.; Spagnoli, Diego M.D.; Tiberio, Francesca M.D.; Villani, Roberto M. M.D.

THE INCIDENCE, MAGNITUDE, and duration of acute pain experienced by neurosurgical patients after various brain operations are not precisely known, because of a lack of well-designed clinical and epidemiological studies. We assessed these important pain variables in 37 consecutive patients who underwent various brain neurosurgical procedures. Postoperative pain was more common than generally assumed (60%). In two-thirds of the patients with postoperative pain, the intensity was moderate to severe. Pain most frequently occurred within the first 48 hours after surgery, but a significant number of patients endured pain for longer periods. Pain was predominantly superficial(86%), suggesting somatic rather than visceral origin and possibly involving pericranial muscles and soft tissues. Subtemporal and suboccipital surgical routes yielded the highest incidence of postoperative pain. Age and sex were significantly associated with the onset of pain, with female and younger patients reporting higher percentages of postoperative pain. Psychological Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory profiles of patients with and without pain significantly differed on the Hypochondriasis scale, with patients without pain scoring unexpectedly higher than patients with pain. It is possible that hypochondriasis serves as a defense mechanism against pain, at least in some patients. Results of this pilot study indicate that postoperative pain after brain surgery is an important, although neglected, clinical problem, that deserves greater attention by surgical teams, to provide better and more appropriate treatment.

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