Chronic pain after burn can have severe physical and psychological effects on former patients years after the initial injury. Although the issue of pain after burn has gained increased attention over the past years, prospective, longitudinal studies are scarce. Our aim was to prospectively investigate consecutive burn patients for pain severity over time and to evaluate the prevalence and characteristics of post-burn pain to 2-7 years after the burn. As an additional aim, the effects of burn and individual-related factors, especially health-related Quality of Life (HRQoL), were investigated.
Sixty-seven consecutive burn patients were assessed during acute care at 3, 6, 12 and 24 months, as well as at 2-7 years post-burn. HRQoL, symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other psychiatric disorders were investigated. During the interviews that took place 2-7 years after the injury (mean 4.6±1.9 years), current chronic post-burn pain was assessed using the Brief Pain Inventory-Short Form (BPI-SF).
One-third of the patients still reported pain 2-7 years after the injury. Pain severity and interference with daily life were mainly mild to moderate though they were found to be associated with significantly lower HRQoL. Chronic pain after burn was associated with both burn- and individual-related factors. In logistic regression analysis HRQoL at 3 and 12 months and symptoms of PTSD at 12 months were independent factors in predicting chronic pain after burn.
Pain after burn becomes a chronic burden for many former burn patients and decreases HRQoL. A novel finding in this study was that HRQoL assessed early after burn was a predictor for the development of chronic pain. This finding may help to predict future pain problems and serve as an indicator for pain preventive measures.