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Papers: 11 May 2024 - 17 May 2024

2024 May 13

Paediatr Anaesth


A systematic review of the prevalence of chronic postsurgical pain in children.


Sim NYW, Chalkiadis GA, Davidson AJ, Palmer GM


Two prior reviews highlight the scarcity and conflicting nature of available data on chronic postsurgical pain in children, reporting a wide prevalence range of 3.2% to 64% (at ≥3 months). This updated systematic review aimed to consolidate information on the prevalence of pediatric chronic postsurgical pain. A thorough literature search of full English-text publications from April 2014 to August 2021 was conducted using Ovid MEDLINE, PubMed, and Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, with search terms: postoperative pain, child, preschool, pediatrics, adolescent, chronic pain. Seventeen relevant studies were identified. Most assessed chronicity once greater than 3 months duration postoperatively (82%), were predominantly prospective (71%) and conducted in inpatient settings (88%). The surgeries examined included orthopedic (scoliosis and limb), urological, laparotomy, inguinal, and cardiothoracic procedures, involving numbers ranging from 36 to 750, totaling 3137 participants/2792 completers. The studies had wide variations in median age at surgery (6 days to 16 years), the percentage of female participants (unspecified or 12.5% to 90%), and follow-up duration (2.5 months to 9 years). Various pain, functional, psychosocial, and health-related quality of life outcomes were documented. Chronic postsurgical pain prevalence varied widely from 2% to 100%. Despite increased data, challenges persist due to heterogeneity in definitions, patient demographics, mixed versus single surgical populations, diverse perioperative analgesic interventions, follow-up durations and reported outcomes. Interpretation is further complicated by limited information on impact, long-term analgesia and healthcare utilization, and relatively small sample sizes, hindering the assessment of reported associations. In some cases, preoperative pain and deformity may not have been addressed by surgery and persisting pain postoperatively may then be inappropriately termed chronic postsurgical pain. Larger-scale, procedure-specific data to better assess current prevalence, impact, and whether modifiable factors link to negative long-term outcomes, would be more useful and allow targeted perioperative interventions for at-risk pediatric surgical patients.