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Prospective cohort study on the trajectory and association of perioperative anxiety and postoperative opioid-related outcomes


Introduction Although perioperative anxiety is common, its trajectory and influence on postoperative pain and opioid use are not well understood. We sought to examine the association and trajectory of perioperative anxiety, pain and opioid use following common surgical procedures.

Methods We conducted a prospective cohort study of 1771 patients undergoing elective surgical procedures. Self-reported opioid use, pain (Brief Pain Inventory) and anxiety (Patient-Reported Outcome Measurement Information System (PROMIS) Anxiety) were recorded on the day of surgery and at 1 month, 3 months and 6 months postsurgery. Clinically significant anxiety was defined as a PROMIS Anxiety T-score ≥55. We examined postoperative opioid use in the context of surgical site pain and anxiety using mixed-effects regression models adjusted for covariates, and examined anxiety as a mediator between pain and opioid use.

Results In this cohort, 65% of participants completed all follow-ups and 30% reported clinically significant anxiety at baseline. Anxiety and surgical site pain were highest on the day of surgery (anxiety: mean=49.3, SD=9.0; pain: mean=4.3, SD=3.3) and declined in the follow-up period. Those with anxiety reported higher opioid use (OR=1.40; 95% CI 1.0, 1.9) and 1.14-point increase in patient-reported surgical pain (95% CI 1.0, 1.3) compared with those without anxiety. Anxiety had no significant mediation effect on the relationship of pain and opioid use.

Discussion Anxiety is an independent risk factor for increased pain and opioid use after surgery. Future studies examining targeted behavioral therapies to reduce anxiety during the perioperative period may positively impact postoperative pain and opioid use.

  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Pain, Postoperative
  • Pain Management
  • Pain Perception

Data availability statement

Data are available upon reasonable request.

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