Background: Persistent pain affects a large proportion of patients after thoracotomy and is associated with sensory disturbances. The objective of this prospective study was to investigate the time course of pain and sensory disturbances over a 12-month period.
Methods: Patients scheduled for thoracotomy were recruited. Data were collected on the day before surgery, including baseline characteristics and the presence of any preoperative pain. At 6- and 12-month follow-ups, data on pain were collected using the Brief Pain Inventory-Short Form, and perceived sensory disturbances around the thoracotomy scar were recorded from a self-exploration test.
Results: At 12 months after surgery, 97 patients had complete data including baseline and 6- and 12-month measurements. Almost half of the patients reported post-thoracotomy pain at the follow-ups. However, 20% of the patients not reporting post-thoracotomy pain at 6 months did report it at 12 months. Between 40% and 60% of patients experienced some kind of sensory disturbance at 6 months. A small decline in some kind of sensory disturbance was reported by 20%–50% of patients at 12 months.
Conclusion: A proportion of patients experienced either resolved or delayed onset of pain. Sensory changes were strongly associated with post-thoracotomy pain syndrome, but were also present in a large proportion of patients without it.
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