Pain, numbness, or both? Distinguishing the longitudinal course and predictors of positive, painful neuropathic features vs numbness after breast cancer surgery

K. Mikayla Flowers, Meghan Beck, Carin Colebaugh, Simon Haroutounian, Robert R. Edwards, Kristin L. Schreiber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations

Abstract

Introduction:Both positive (burning, stabbing, and allodynia) and negative (numbness) neuropathic symptoms may arise after surgery but likely contribute differently to patients' postoperative pain experience. Numbness has been identified as divergent from positive neuropathic symptoms and therefore excluded from some neuropathic assessment tools (Neuropathic Pain Scale for PostSurgical patients [NeuPPS]).Objectives:In this prospective longitudinal study of patients undergoing breast surgery, we aimed to delineate the time course of numbness and its coincidence with NeuPPS and to contrast the association of surgical, psychosocial, and psychophysical predictors with the development of negative vs positive neuropathic symptoms.Methods:Patients reported surgical area sensory disturbances at 2 weeks and 3, 6, and 12 months postoperatively. Association of baseline demographic, surgical, psychosocial, and psychophysical factors with NeuPPS and numbness across time was investigated using generalized estimating equation linear and logistic regression.Results:Numbness was consistently reported by 65% of patients; positive neuropathic symptoms were less common, often decreasing over time. Neuropathic Pain scale for PostSurgical patients and numbness co-occurred in half of patients and were both associated with greater clinical pain severity and impact, younger age, axillary surgery, and psychosocial factors. More extensive surgery and chemotherapy were only associated with numbness. Conversely, other chronic pain, lower physical activity, perioperative opioid use, negative affect, and lower baseline pressure pain threshold and tolerance were only associated with NeuPPS. Patients reporting numbness alone did not endorse substantial clinical pain.Conclusions:Differentiation of predictors, prevalence, and time course of numbness vs NeuPPS in breast surgical patients revealed important distinctions, suggesting that their independent assessment is worthwhile in future studies of postsurgical pain.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E976
JournalPain Reports
Volume6
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 22 2021

Keywords

  • Neuropathic pain
  • Numbness
  • Postsurgical pain
  • Psychosocial
  • Quantitative sensory testing
  • Sensory disturbance

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