As much as I am not a fan of many of the studies that clutter medical journals --- poorly designed studies or those that display extreme bias --- I am occasionally delighted to find an article that is a bit out of the ordinary. It helps when it confirms my own biases (I admit it, I like to say "toldya so"), and there's an extra bonus for teaching me a new word. Such is the case for an article from the January edition of the American Journal of Surgery --- Catastrophizing: a predictive factor for postoperative pain.
...an exaggerated negative mental set brought to bear during an actual or anticipated painful experience (defined in simple words as expectation or worry about major negative consequences, even one of minor importance).
High levels of catastrophizing have been reported to be associated with a heightened pain experience and can result in the development of chronic pain.
- Pain catastrophizing is becoming recognized as a key predictor of the severity of acute post-surgical pain and its progression to chronic post-surgical pain. That's a big deal, because the severity of a patient's pain perception significantly alters their recovery and postoperative mobility, which can lead to other problems (DVT, atalectasis, etc.).
- There are screening tools available (the Coping Strategies Questionnaire and the Pain Catastrophizing Scale) to identify patients with a tendency to catasrophize, which could potentially allow us to tailor postoperative pain management for them.