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How Memory Impairment Impacts the Chronic Pain Experience







Persons who have memory or executive function impairment have increased risk of developing chronic pain after surgery, according to a study published in Brain this past January. According to the authors, 185 persons aged 18 to 85 who were undergoing knee replacement or breast cancer surgery were studied.  The subjects were also assessed for the memory/executive function impairments prior to surgery and for a year following.


 Here is a breakdown of the study results:


Type of surgery              % reporting significant pain 
                                               prior to surgery                    6 months post-op         12 months post-op

Knee replacement                      84                                           39                                38

Breast surgery                            0                                             20                                18       
      

The presence of memory impairment and/or executive function disorders predicted which individuals experienced post operative pain.  These persons had findings on brain MRI that indicated some abnormalities of areas where the pain signal processing AND memory/executive function are located. 

From the results of this study, it appears that there is some ability to forecast the risk of post operative chronic pain--simply by knowing the patient's mental functional ability.  It's potentially a powerful tool in the war on chronic pain, don't you think?

Sources: Psychiatryonline,blushblog.com



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