Secondary Logo

Journal Logo

Institutional members access full text with Ovid®

Can Patients Forecast Their Postoperative Disability and Pain?

Alokozai, Aaron, BS; Eppler, Sara L., MPH; Lu, Laura Y., BS; Sheikholeslami, Nicole, MS; Kamal, Robin N., MD

Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research®: March 2019 - Volume 477 - Issue 3 - p 635–643
doi: 10.1097/CORR.0000000000000627

Background Forecasting is a construct in which experiences and beliefs inform a projection of future outcomes. Current efforts to predict postoperative patient-reported outcome measures such as risk-stratifying models, focus on studying patient, surgeon, or facility variables without considering the mindset of the patient. There is no evidence assessing the association of a patient’s forecasted postoperative disability with realized postoperative disability. Patient-forecasted disability could potentially be used as a tool to predict postoperative disability.

Questions/purposes (1) Do patient-forecasted disability and pain correlate with patient-realized disability and pain after hand surgery? (2) What other factors are associated with patient ability to forecast disability and pain?

Methods We completed a prospective, longitudinal study to assess the association between forecasted and realized postoperative pain and disability as a predictive tool. One hundred eighteen patients of one hand/upper extremity surgeon were recruited from November 2016 to February 2018. Inclusion criteria for the study were patients undergoing hand or upper extremity surgery, older than 18 years of age, and English fluency and literacy. We enrolled 118 patients; 32 patients (27%) dropped out as a result of incomplete postoperative questionnaires. The total number of patients eligible was not tracked. Eighty-six patients completed the preoperative and postoperative questionnaires. Exclusion criteria included patients unable to give informed consent, children, patients with dementia, and nonEnglish speakers. Before surgery, patients completed a questionnaire that asked them to forecast their upper extremity disability (DASH [the shortened Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder and Hand] [QuickDASH]) and pain VAS (pain from 0 to 10) for 2 weeks after their procedure. The questionnaire also queried the following psychologic factors as explanatory variables, in addition to other demographic and socioeconomic variables: the General Self Efficacy Scale, the Pain Catastrophizing Scale, and the Patient Health Questionnaire Depression Scale. At the 2-week followup appointment, patients completed the QuickDASH and pain VAS to assess their realized disability and pain scores. Bivariate analysis was used to test the association of forecasted and realized disability and pain reporting Pearson correlation coefficients. Unpaired t-tests were performed to test the association of demographic variables (for example, men vs women) and the association of forecasted and realized disability and pain levels. One-way analysis of variance was used for variables with multiple groups (for example, annual salary and ethnicity). All p values < 0.05 were considered statistically significant.

Results Forecasted postoperative disability was moderately correlated with realized postoperative disability (r = 0.59; p < 0.001). Forecasted pain was weakly correlated with realized postoperative pain (r = 0.28; p = 0.011). A total of 47% of patients (n = 40) were able to predict their disability score within the MCID of their realized disability score. Symptoms of depression also correlated with increased realized postoperative disability (r = 0.37; p < 0.001) and increased realized postoperative pain (r = 0.42; p < 0.001). Catastrophic thinking was correlated with increased realized postoperative pain (r = 0.31; p = 0.004). Patients with symptoms of depression realized greater pain postoperatively than what they forecasted preoperatively (r = -0.24; p = 0.028), but there was no association between symptoms of depression and patients’ ability to forecast disability (r = 0.2; p = 0.058). Patient age was associated with a patient’s ability to forecast disability (r = .27; p = 0.011). Catastrophic thinking, self-efficacy, and number of prior surgical procedures were not associated with a patient’s ability to forecast their postoperative disability or pain.

Conclusions Patients undergoing hand surgery can moderately forecast their postoperative disability. Surgeons can use forecasted disability to identify patients who may experience greater disability compared with benchmarks, for example, forecast and experience high QuickDASH scores after surgery, and inform preoperative discussions and interventions focused on expectation management, resilience, and mindset.

Level of Evidence Level III, prognostic study.

A. Alokozai, S. L. Eppler, L. Y. Lu, N. Sheikholeslami, R. N. Kamal, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Stanford University, Redwood City, CA, USA

R. N. Kamal, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Stanford University Medical Center, 450 Broadway Street MC: 6342, Redwood City, CA 94603, USA, Email:

The institution of one or more of the authors (RNK) has received, during the study period, funding from NIH K23 Grant K23AR073307-01.

Each author certifies that neither he or she, nor any member of his or her immediate family, has funding or commercial associations (consultancies, stock ownership, equity interest, patent/licensing arrangements, etc) that might pose a conflict of interest in connection with the submitted article.

All ICMJE Conflict of Interest Forms for authors and Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research® editors and board members are on file with the publication and can be viewed on request.

Each author certifies that his or her institution approved the human protocol for this investigation, that all investigations were conducted in conformity with ethical principles of research, and that informed consent for participation in the study was obtained.

Received July 11, 2018

Accepted December 11, 2018

© 2019 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins LWW
You currently do not have access to this article

To access this article:

Note: If your society membership provides full-access, you may need to login on your society website