Preoperative frailty and its association with postsurgical pain in an older patient cohort

Gary Joseph Esses, Xiaoyu Liu, Hung Mo Lin, Yury Khelemsky, Stacie Deiner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Background and objectives Chronic postsurgical pain in patients over 65 negatively impacts recovery, quality of life and physical functioning. In the community setting, chronic pain has been shown to be related to frailty, a syndrome more commonly seen in older adults and characterized by limited physiologic reserve and ability to withstand stressors. While frailty is an important preoperative risk factor for poor surgical outcomes in older adults, the relationship between frailty and postsurgical pain in this population has not been investigated. We hypothesized that preoperative frailty would be associated with greater odds of postsurgical chronic pain. Methods We conducted a prospective cohort study of 116 patients older than 65 years old who underwent major elective non-cardiac surgery. Patients were assessed for frailty within 30 days prior to surgery using the FRAIL Scale assessment and pain was evaluated before surgery and at 3 months after surgery using the Geriatric Pain Measure. Results After adjusting for baseline characteristics, we found that frail patients were almost five times more likely to have intrusive postsurgical pain compared with patients who were not frail (OR 4.73, 95% CI 1.24 to 18.09). Intrusive preoperative pain and spine surgery were also associated with increased postsurgical pain (OR 10.13, 95% CI 2.81 to 36.57 and OR 4.02, 95% CI 1.22 to 13.17, respectively). Conclusion Although future studies are needed to establish a causal relationship between preoperative frailty and postsurgical pain, our findings suggest that older patients should have preoperative frailty assessments and frail older adults may need additional resources to improve postsurgical pain outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)695-699
Number of pages5
JournalRegional Anesthesia and Pain Medicine
Issue number7
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2019


  • pain measurement
  • pain medicine
  • postoperative pain
  • surgical outcome


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