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Pain After Surgery

Pain After Surgery Overview

Pain after surgery is common. Pain after surgery is also normal and to be expected. Steps can be taken to minimize or eliminate pain, but pain that gets worse, especially if other symptoms are present, can be a sign of a surgical complication that may need to be checked by the doctor.

Children who have surgery experience pain just as adults do, and they usually are able to express their pain in one form or another. Most children older than 18 months can use the word pain, and children younger than 18 months often say they are “hurt.”

However, children often have a hard time explaining how much pain they feel. In addition, very young children who cannot speak yet have a more difficult time communicating how much pain they feel. Consequently, the parent must watch the child for nonverbal signs of pain that may include the following:

  • Crying
  • Poor feeding
  • Poor eating
  • Poor drinking
  • Lethargy
  • Sleeplessness
  • Unhappy facial expressions

The parent should note how the child is behaving compared to the child’s usual behavior and express that to the doctor. The doctor may use pictures that the child can choose from to indicate where the child feels pain and to what degree. A happy, playful child who is sleeping and eating well is rarely in pain.

Just as children express pain differently, pain management in children can also vary.

  • Dosages and availability of pain medications are different in children. In children, dosages are often calculated by weight. Therefore, knowing the child’s weight is important.
  • Children may also be influenced by other factors. For example, a child may have a strong fear of the surgical procedure that may last even after the surgery, or the child may believe that the pain of surgery is a punishment for some act. Therefore, explaining to the child what is going to happen and why, both before and after the surgery, is important.
  • Having a plan for management of the child’s pain after surgery is important.
    • Discuss the dosages and timing of medications with the child’s doctor.
    • Discuss what other treatments and instruction will minimize pain and anxiety after surgery.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/10/2014
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