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Papers of the Week

2022 Jul 08

Am Surg

Mindfulness-Based Interventions for Perioperative Pain Management and Opioid Risk Reduction Following Surgery: A Stepped Care Approach.


Surgical procedures often improve health and function but can sometimes also result in iatrogenic effects, including chronic pain and opioid misuse. Due to the known risks of opioids and the physical, emotional, and financial suffering that often accompanies chronic pain, there has been a call for greater use of complementary non-pharmacological treatments like mindfulness-based interventions. Mindfulness can be broadly described as an attentional state involving moment-by-moment meta-awareness of thoughts, emotions, and body sensations. An expanding number of randomized clinical trials have found strong evidence for the value of mindfulness techniques in alleviating clinical symptomology relevant to surgical contexts. The purpose of this review is to examine the empirical evidence for the perioperative use of mindfulness interventions. We present a mindfulness-based stepped care approach that first involves brief mindfulness to treat preoperative pain and anxiety and prevent development of postoperative chronic pain or opioid misuse. More extensive mindfulness-based interventions are then provided to patients who continue to experience high pain levels or prolonged opioid use after surgery. Finally, we review psychophysiological mechanisms of action that may be integral to the analgesic and opioid sparing effects of mindfulness.