Managing pain after surgery – make sure you have a plan

With elective surgery resuming as COVID-19 restrictions are eased, people going in to hospital for an operation are being reminded about the importance of having a pain management plan for when they are discharged.

In the December edition of Australian Prescriber, Professor Ross MacPherson and Dr Gavin Pattulo from the Department of Anaesthesia and Pain Management at Sydney’s Royal North Shore Hospital explain that your post-surgery pain management plan should be discussed with your doctors before you are sent home from hospital. It should cover what to realistically expect when it comes to pain over the coming days and weeks, as well as provide you some direction on how to manage any pain after your operation.

“Paracetamol and anti-inflammatory pain medicines like ibuprofen and diclofenac should be the first choice to help with routine postsurgical pain,” says Professor MacPherson.

“Other medicines may be needed if you are experiencing nerve pain, which is often described as ‘shooting’ pain or like an ‘electric shock’.

“Opioids, such as codeine and tramadol only have a limited role but might be prescribed in some circumstances. If you are prescribed an opioid medicine after your surgery, it should only be for a short period of time, and your doctor needs to discuss this with you and have a plan as to when you will stop taking the opioid medicine. This information should be captured in your pain management plan,” says Professor MacPherson.

“If pain is more severe or lasts for longer than expected, it is important to contact your doctor,” he says.

Read the full Australian Prescriber article.

To help both consumers and health professionals have useful conversations about opioid medicines, particularly if it’s being prescribed to manage post-operative pain, Choosing Wisely Australia has 5 questions people can ask their health professional about managing pain and opioid medicines


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