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A to Z: Postoperative Pain

May also be called: Post-Surgical Pain

Postoperative (post-AH-pruh-tiv) pain is pain or discomfort after surgery.

More to Know

Most people who have surgery experience some pain as their bodies heal. This is known as postoperative pain. For many people, this pain is mild and goes away in a few days or weeks. But for others, postoperative pain can be so bad that it can take them longer to recover from surgery and lead to chronic pain syndromes and other complications.

Postoperative pain is often treated with powerful pain-killing medications called opioids. These drugs are effective at treating pain, but can cause side effects like headaches, itching, drowsiness, nausea, and constipation. If taken in too large a dose, they can cause life-threatening breathing problems. They also can lead to addictions that can be hard to break.

Because of the risks associated with opioids, newer treatments for postoperative pain have started to focus on using nonopioid painkillers and treating only the area around the site of the surgery. Hospitals and care providers are also working harder to ensure that opioids are prescribed and used in a way that lessens the chances of addiction or other complications.

Keep in Mind

Postoperative pain is very common. Much of the time, the pain can be controlled with simple measures that carry few risks. If opioids are part of the treatment plan, their use should be closely monitored, and every precaution should be taken to make sure they don't contribute to an overdose, addiction, or other problems.

All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.

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