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Papers of the Week

Papers: 12 Aug 2023 - 18 Aug 2023


Human Studies, Neurobiology


2023 Aug 09

J Pain


Higher Cardiovagal Baroreflex Sensitivity Predicts Increased Pain Outcomes after Cardiothoracic Surgery.


Suarez-Roca H, Mamoun N, Watkins LL, Bortsov AV, Mathew JP


Excessive postoperative pain can lead to extended hospitalization and increased expenses, but factors that predict its severity are still unclear. Baroreceptor function could influence postoperative pain by modulating nociceptive processing and vagal-mediated antiinflammatory reflexes. To investigate this relationship, we conducted a study with 55 patients undergoing minimally invasive cardiothoracic surgery to evaluate whether cardiovagal baroreflex sensitivity (BRS) can predict postoperative pain. We assessed the spontaneous cardiovagal BRS under resting pain-free conditions before surgery. We estimated postoperative pain outcomes with the PEG scale and pressure pain thresholds on the first (POD1) and second (POD2) postoperative days and persistent pain three and six months after hospital discharge. We also measured circulating levels of relevant inflammatory biomarkers (C-reactive protein, albumin, cytokines) at baseline, POD1, and POD2 to assess the contribution of inflammation to the relationship between BRS and postoperative pain. Our mixed-effects model analysis showed a significant main effect of preoperative BRS on postoperative pain (p=0.013). Linear regression analysis revealed a significant positive association between preoperative BRS and postoperative pain on POD2, even after adjusting for demographic, surgical, analgesic treatment, and psychological factors. Moreover, preoperative BRS was linked to pain interfering with general activity and enjoyment but not with other pain parameters (pain intensity and pressure pain thresholds). Preoperative BRS had modest associations with postoperative C-reactive protein and IL-10 levels, but they did not mediate its relationship with postoperative pain. These findings indicate that preoperative BRS can independently predict postoperative pain, which could serve as a modifiable criterion for optimizing postoperative pain management. PERSPECTIVE: This article shows that preoperative baroreflex sensitivity predicts postoperative pain outcomes independently of the inflammatory response and pain sensitivity to noxious pressure stimulation. These results provide valuable insights into the role of baroreceptors in pain and suggest a helpful tool for improving postoperative pain management.