Published by Dove Press

Abstract: Chronic neuro-musculoskeletal pain is an important complication of open-heart surgery (OHS). To better understand the development and natural course of neuro-musculoskeletal pain in the immediate post-OHS period, this prospective longitudinal study assessed the prevalence and degree of pain and shoulder disability, and areas of pain pre- and post-OHS. Usual medical, nursing, and physiotherapy care was provided including early extubation, education, walking, sitting out of bed, and upper, lower limb, and trunk exercises from day 1 post-operation. Of 114 elective patients who provided consent, 98 subjects were surveyed preoperatively, and at week 6 and week 12 post-OHS. Open and closed questions encompassed numerical rating of pain scales for various body areas summed as a total pain score (TPS), the shoulder disability score (SDS), exercise compliance, and sternal clicking. Usual care comprised mobility exercises, walking program, and cardiac rehabilitation referral. Survey return rates were 100%, 88%, and 82%, respectively. Of the 76 (78%) subjects with complete data sets, 68% subjects reported a history of previous neuro-musculoskeletal injuries/conditions preoperatively while prevalence for neuro-musculoskeletal pain was 64%, 88%, and 67% and 38%, 63%, and 42% for shoulder disability, at the three assessments. In all, 11% subjects reported sternal clicking at week 6 and 7% at week 12. Pain commonly occurred in the lower back and neck preoperatively, and in front of the chest, neck, rib cage, upper back, and left shoulder at week 6. Rib cage pain alone remained significantly greater than preoperative levels by week 12 post-OHS. Preoperative SDS was positively correlated with post-OHS length of stay; women had higher SDSs than men at week 6 and week 12 and week 12 SDS was negatively correlated with height. Surgical risk score was negatively correlated with change in SDS and TPS from pre-operation to week 12. In conclusion, neuro-musculoskeletal pain and shoulder disability were common preoperatively and while prevalence increased at week 6 post-OHS, overall preoperative levels were restored by week 12.