How Long Is Long Enough?
There is limited data as to how long post-operative pain persists, and this time period will vary with the type of surgical procedure performed. The perception of pain occurs during the inflammatory phase of wound healing, which lasts approximately 72 hours; consequently, 72 hours is the recommended minimum amount of time analgesics should be provided following surgery.5 In humans, acute post-operative pain is followed by persistent pain in 10% to 50% of patients and 2% to 10% of these patients experience severe chronic pain. Such discomfort may last for more than 3 to 6 months after surgery. Persistent post-operative pain (PPOP) is the consequence of ongoing inflammation and/or neuropathic pain from injury to peripheral nerves and represents a major, largely underdiagnosed clinical problem.10
A Bridge in Pain Relief
A key difference between pain management in animals compared to humans is how pain is reported and recorded. While humans can verbalize the pain they feel, it is up to veterinarians and pet owners to observe and perceive the signs of pain in pets. Post-operative pain in pets can typically be well-controlled in hospitalized patients when pain assessment and pain intervention are part of post-operative protocols. However, most veterinary patients that undergo soft-tissue or orthopedic surgery are discharged from the veterinary hospital within 24 to 48 hours post-operatively. Therefore, analgesics must be delivered and/or prescribed that bridge pain relief in the home environment.5 Adequate post-operative pain control during the early post-operative window is key to preventing PPOP.
5. Lascelles BDX, Kirkby Shaw K. (2016), An extended release local anaesthetic: potential for future use in veterinary surgical patients? Vet Med Sci, 2:229-238. doi:10.1002/vms3.43
10. Kehlet H, Jensen TS, Woolf CJ. Persistent postsurgical pain: risk factors and prevention. Lancet. 2006;367(9522):1618-1625.