Study objectives: To study the location, distribution,
and intensity of pain in a sample of adult cardiac surgery patients
during their postoperative hospital stay.
Design: In a
prospective study, pain location, distribution (number of pain areas
per patient), and intensity (0 to 10 numerical rating scale) were
documented on the first, second, third, and seventh postoperative day
(POD). Patient characteristics (age, sex, size, and body mass index)
were analyzed for their impact on pain intensity.
Setting: A university hospital.
Two hundred consecutive adult patients who underwent median sternotomy
for open heart surgery. There were 121 male and 79 female patients,
with a mean (± SD) age of 60.9 ± 19.2 years.
and results: The maximal pain intensity was significantly higher
on POD 1 and 2 (3.7 ± 2 and 3.9 ± 1.9, respectively) and lower on
POD 3 and 7 (3.2 ± 1.5 and 2.6 ± 1.8, respectively). The pain
distribution did not vary significantly throughout the hospital stay,
but the location did, with more shoulder pain on POD 7. Only age was
found to have an impact on pain intensity, with patients < 60 years
having a higher pain intensity than older patients on POD 2
(4.3 ± 2.2 vs 3.6 ± 2.4; p = 0.02).
Conclusions: In this patient population, the pain intensity
diminished from POD 3 onward, although its distribution did not vary
significantly during the first postoperative week. Moreover, pain
location changed with time, with more osteoarticular type pain at the
end of the first postoperative week. Among the patients’
characteristics, only younger age had an impact on pain intensity, with
a higher value on POD 2.