Prevention and treatment of chronic post-surgical pain should be based on the early identification of patients at risk. The presence of a deficit in executive functions, along with the presence of psychological risk factors, could impair the use of appropriate pain coping strategies and might facilitate the transition to chronic post-surgical pain. A longitudinal cohort study was implemented. Patients listed for orthopaedic surgery were enrolled. Variables measured before surgery were pain intensity, the sensory, affective, cognitive and mixed components of pain, state and trait variables associated with the psychological status of the patient, fear of movement, pain catastrophizing, visual attention and cognitive flexibility. Pain intensity and the components of pain were re-evaluated after surgery and after three months. A linear mixed model was used to assess the predictors of pain intensity, and a multivariate linear mixed model was used to assess the predictors of the pain components. 167 patients were enrolled. Controlling for sex, age, pain duration and surgical procedure, catastrophizing and visual attention were predictors of pain intensity at follow-up. The sensory component of pain was predicted by state anxiety, healthcare-related fears, pain catastrophizing and visual attention. Anxiety and catastrophizing were predictors of the affective and evaluative components of pain. The mixed component of pain was predicted by state anxiety, healthcare-related fears and pain catastrophizing. Executive functions, along with psychological risk factors, shape the course of post-surgical pain. The efficacy of preventive and rehabilitation treatment could be possibly enhanced if these factors are treated.
- Chronic post-surgical pain
- Executive functions