Newswise — CHICAGO, April 21, 2015 -- Psychosocial risk factors, such as sleep duration, anxiety and parental fears, can be important predictors for identifying children most likely to experience higher pain intensity, delayed recovery and impaired quality of life following surgery, according to research reported in The Journal of Pain published by the American Pain Society,

Some 5 million children undergo surgery every year in the United States, and it is estimated that up 60 percent have moderate to severe pain while in the hospital. Recent studies suggest that post-surgical pain may persist beyond the healing period for children following general or orthopedic surgical procedures. Published research has established the importance of biopsychosocial factors in predicting pain after surgery in adults.

Researchers with the University of Washington Seattle Department of Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine examined the impact of major surgery on pain and quality of life in children over time. They identified psychosocial and behavioral factors at baseline that predicted acute postsurgical pain intensity and impaired quality of life two weeks after surgery. They hypothesized that pre-surgical assessments of higher anxiety, pain catastrophizing, shorter sleep duration and higher parental catastrophizing about child pain would predict greater pain intensity and quality of life impairment.

Sixty families agreed to participate in the study. Children were assessed the week preceding surgery and follow-up occurred two weeks after the procedures. This is the first study to prospectively identify psychosocial risk factors for acute post-surgical pain in children after major surgery.

Results showed that higher levels of parental catastrophizing and shorter child sleep duration significantly predicted higher levels of post-surgical pain. Also, higher child anxiety just before surgery predicted more quality of life impairments.

The authors noted that inclusion of parent perceptions in the analysis yielded important information on the potential role of child and parent emotions prior to surgery. Further, child anxiety, parental catastrophizing, and sleep factors are modifiable factors that could be targets for preventative intervention strategies.

About the American Pain Society Based in Chicago, the American Pain Society (APS) is a multidisciplinary community that brings together a diverse group of scientists, clinicians and other professionals to increase the knowledge of pain and transform public policy and clinical practice to reduce pain-related suffering. APS is the professional home for investigators involved in all aspects of pain research including basic, translational, clinical and health services research to obtain the support and inspiration they need to flourish professionally. APS strongly advocates expansion of high quality pain research to help advance science to achieve effective and responsible pain relief. For more information on APS, visit


Register for reporter access to contact details

The Journal of Pain