05 January 2015
Total knee arthroplasty (TKA) is a common and costly surgical procedure. Despite high success rates, many TKA patients develop chronic pain in the months and years following surgery, constituting a public health burden. Pain catastrophizing is a construct that reflects anxious preoccupation with pain, inability to inhibit pain-related fears, amplification of the significance of pain vis-à-vis health implications, and a sense of helplessness regarding pain. Recent research suggests that it may be an important risk factor for untoward TKA outcomes. To clarify this impact, we systematically reviewed the literature to date on pain catastrophizing as a prospective predictor of chronic pain following TKA.
We searched MEDLINE, EMBASE, and PsycINFO databases to identify articles related to pain catastrophizing, TKA, risk models, and chronic pain. We reviewed titles and abstracts to identify original research articles that met our specified inclusion criteria. Included articles were then rated for methodological quality. including methodological quality. Due to heterogeneity in follow-up, analyses, and outcomes reported across studies, a quantitative meta-analysis could not be performed.
We identified six prospective longitudinal studies with small-to-mid-sized samples that met the inclusion criteria. Despite considerable variability in reported pain outcomes, pain catastrophizing was identified as a significant predictor of chronic pain persisting ≥3 months following TKA in five of the studies assessed. Limitations of studies included lack of large-scale data, absence of standardized pain measurements, inadequate multivariate adjustment, such as failure to control for analgesic use and other relevant covariates, and failure to report non-significant parameter estimates.
This study provides moderate-level evidence for pain catastrophizing as an independent predictor of chronic pain post-TKA. Directions for future research include larger, well-controlled studies with standard pain outcomes, identification of clinically-relevant catastrophizing cut-offs that predict pain outcomes, investigation of other psychosocial risk factors, and assessment of interventions aimed to reduce pain catastrophizing on chronic pain outcomes following TKA surgery.