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Keywords:

  • pain management;
  • post-operative pain

Summary

  • This study uses a qualitative approach to explore patients' expectations and experiences of pain, factors contributing to the effective/ineffective management of their pain and strategies patients reported as helpful when experiencing pain. Ten patients on a mixed surgical ward at a District General Hospital in the south of England participated in the study.
  • Pain scores, using a visual analogue scale, were obtained for ‘expected’ pain pre-operatively and ‘worst pain experienced’. A taped in-depth interview exploring patients' experience of pain after surgery took place on the fifth post-operative day.
  • Details of analgesia were also collected for the 5 days following surgery.
  • Patients expected pain after surgery but the intensity of the pain they experienced was often significantly greater than anticipated.
  • Lack of information, inadequate pain assessment and ineffective pain control contributed to this finding.
  • It is suggested that new pain technology, such as epidural and patient-controlled analgesia, may not change the prevalence and incidence of pain unless the systems these technologies are placed within also change.