Postoperative pain-from mechanisms to treatment

Esther M Pogatzki-Zahn, Daniel Segelcke, Stephan A Schug

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

160 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction: Pain management after surgery continues to be suboptimal; there are several reasons including lack of translation of results from basic science studies and scientific clinical evidence into clinical praxis.

Objectives: This review presents and discusses basic science findings and scientific evidence generated within the last 2 decades in the field of acute postoperative pain.

Methods: In the first part of the review, we give an overview about studies that have investigated the pathophysiology of postoperative pain by using rodent models of incisional pain up to July 2016. The second focus of the review lies on treatment recommendations based on guidelines and clinical evidence, eg, by using the fourth edition of the "Acute Pain Management: Scientific Evidence" of the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists and Faculty of Pain Medicine.

Results: Preclinical studies in rodent models characterized responses of primary afferent nociceptors and dorsal horn neurons as one neural basis for pain behavior including resting pain, hyperalgesia, movement-evoked pain or anxiety- and depression-like behaviors after surgery. Furthermore, the role of certain receptors, mediators, and neurotransmitters involved in peripheral and central sensitization after incision were identified; many of these are very specific, relate to some modalities only, and are unique for incisional pain. Future treatment should focus on these targets to develop therapeutic agents that are effective for the treatment of postoperative pain as well as have few side effects. Furthermore, basic science findings translate well into results from clinical studies. Scientific evidence is able to point towards useful (and less useful) elements of multimodal analgesia able to reduce opioid consumption, improve pain management, and enhance recovery.

Conclusion: Understanding basic mechanisms of postoperative pain to identify effective treatment strategies may improve patients' outcome after surgery.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere588
Number of pages16
JournalPain Reports
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2017


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