Trajectories, Risk Factors, and Impact of Persistent Pain After Major Musculoskeletal Surgery in Adolescents: A Replication Study

Published:December 30, 2021DOI:


      • This study replicates diverging post-surgical pain trajectories among adolescents.
      • A “High and Persistent Pain” trajectory occurred in about 1 in 5 adolescents.
      • High pre-surgical pain and poor sleep were associated with High and Persistent Pain.
      • Post-surgical pain trajectories diverged during the initial 2 weeks at home.
      • Opportunity exists for early detection of those with high and increasing pain.


      Studies have identified high rates of chronic postsurgical pain in adolescents. Characterizing patterns of pain in the transition from acute to chronic following major surgery may pinpoint critical periods of recovery. This observational study modelled pain trajectories over 1-year following surgery to attempt replication of prior work and evaluate baseline psychosocial factors and 12-month health outcomes. Adolescents 10 to 18 years completed electronic daily pain reporting for 7 days and self-reported health outcomes, at 5 assessment timepoints. Group-based trajectory modelling identified two trajectories with similar starting points in-hospital but distinct recovery courses at home. Pain declined steadily in one group across the study period (“Declining Pain”; estimated probability,18.9%), but pain increased after hospital discharge and remained high through 12-months in the other group (“High and Persistent Pain”; estimated probability,81.1%). Pre-surgery pain (Aor = 1.86, P = .001) and sleep quality (Aor = 0.49, P = .029) were associated with the High and Persistent pain trajectory in multivariate regressions. This trajectory was associated with lower total quality of life (B=-9.79, P = .002), physical health (B = -15.93, P < .001), psychosocial health (B = -6.73, P = .06), and greater fatigue (B = -13.61, P = .001). This study replicated prior findings identifying two post-surgical pain trajectories with diverging pain in the first two weeks. Clinical detection of those with increasing pain and early intervention may interrupt persistence of pain.


      This article replicates a prior study identifying distinct post-surgical pain trajectories, Declining Pain and High and Persistent Pain. The High and Persistent pain trajectory is associated with pre-surgery pain, pre-surgery sleep quality, and lower quality of life (total, physical, and psychosocial health as well as fatigue) at 12-month follow-up.

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