Persistent post-surgical pain can affect as many as one in two having major surgery (such as an amputation) and one in four for all kinds of surgery combined. It is identified by symptoms of neuropathic (nerve) pain such as burning pain, shooting pain, numbness and changes to physical sensation or sensitivity to temperature or touch. Other risk factors for onset of post-surgical pain are pre-existing pain, dependence on opioid medication, anxiety, infection and bleeding and chemotherapy.
There is a strong link between the severity of pain in the 10 days or so after surgery and the development of long-term pain. This means adequate pain relief immediately after surgery is critical to prevent ongoing pain, especially if one or more risk factors are present. This is something that should be discussed with the doctor and anaesthetist prior to surgery.
For ongoing pain after surgery, interventions such as nerve blocks to stop nerves from working in the affected area and medications may helpful for pain relief. Multidisciplinary pain management combined with self-management will also be important.