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Pain Research and Management
Volume 11 (2006), Issue 1, Pages 41-47
Original Article

Pain, Health-Related Quality of Life and Health Care Utilization after Inpatient Surgery: A Pilot Study

Elizabeth G VanDenKerkhof, Wilma M Hopman, Tanveer Towheed, Rosemary Wilson, John Murdoch, Michael Rimmer, Sherri Schmidt Stutzman, Debbie Tod, Vico Dagnone, and David H Goldstein

Department of Anesthesiology, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada

Copyright © 2006 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


BACKGROUND: Little is known about pain-related outcomes in surgical inpatients after discharge from the hospital. An ongoing risk and outcomes monitoring system would provide valuable feedback to improve the quality of patient care.

OBJECTIVES: The purpose of the present pilot study was to describe postoperative pain, medication use, health care utilization and health-related quality of life (HRQOL) immediately and four weeks after surgery; merge clinically captured data with Web-based follow-up data; and examine patients’ willingness to complete Web-based health questionnaires.

METHODS: One hundred two consecutive surgical inpatients were approached for participation. Perioperative data were abstracted from the acute pain management service clinical database and linked to follow-up data captured four weeks postoperatively.

RESULTS: Follow-up questionnaires were completed by 88 participants. Clinical assessment data were successfully linked to Web-based follow-up data. Average pain intensity (3.7) four weeks following discharge fell just short of the acute pain management service active pain score of 3.9. At four weeks, all 88 participants reported significantly impaired HRQOL, 36 were still taking pain medications and 15 had visited an emergency room. Two-thirds of the participants had access to the Internet at home and approximately one-half were willing to complete on-line health questionnaires.

DISCUSSION: The study indicates that it is feasible to link clinical and research data, and shows a significant burden of pain and reduced HRQOL in the weeks following discharge. This approach to converting clinically captured data into meaningful information about surgical outcomes is valuable in the development of an ongoing risk and outcomes monitoring system.