Division of Surgical Medicine and Intensive Care, University Hospital of North Norway, Tromsø, Norway; Department of Community Medicine, University of Tromsø, Norway. Electronic address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
In a large survey incorporating medical examination (N=12,981), information on chronic pain and surgery was collected, and sensitivity to different pain modalities was tested. Tolerance to the cold pressor test was analysed with survival statistics for 10,486 individuals, perceived cold pressor pain intensity was calculated for 10,367 individuals, heat pain threshold was assessed for 4,054 individuals, and pressure pain sensitivity for 4,689 individuals. Persistent post-surgical pain, defined by self-report, was associated with lower cold pressor tolerance (sex-adjusted hazard ratio=1.34, 95% confidence interval=1.08-1.66), but not when adjusting for other chronic pain. Other experimental pain modalities did not differentiate between individuals with or without post-surgical pain. Of the individuals with chronic pain (N=3352), 6.2% indicated surgery as a cause, although only 0.5% indicated surgery as the only cause. The associations found between persistent post-surgical pain and cold pressor tolerance is largely explained by the co-existence of chronic pain from other causes. We conclude that most cases of persistent post-surgical pain are coexistent with other chronic pain, and that, in an unselected post-surgical population, persistent post-surgical pain is not significantly associated with pain sensitivity when controlling for comorbid pain from other causes. A low prevalence of self-reported persistent pain from surgery attenuates statistically significant associations. We hypothesize that general chronic pain is associated with central changes in pain processing as expressed by reduced tolerance for the cold pressor test.