To define the factors that affect patient's self-assessed postoperative pain after photorefractive keratectomy (PRK).
Patients who underwent PRK in 2016 were evaluated. Anonymized data collected included patient gender, age, and season at the time of surgery, ablation depth, surgeon status (attending vs. resident), topical tetracaine use, and subjective pain scores at postoperative days (PODs) 1 and 7. Average pain scores and amount of pain medication taken were analyzed for each of the previously mentioned variables.
Overall, 231 patients who underwent PRK were analyzed. The mean pain score and SD were 0.78 ± 1.87 on POD 1 and 0.03 ± 0.37 by POD 7. Patients who used topical tetracaine reported significantly higher pain on POD 1 and 7 compared with patients who did not use tetracaine (P < 0.001 and P = 0.038, respectively). No significant differences in pain scores were seen based on surgeon status, ablation depth, gender, and season. Patients who used topical tetracaine took a higher amount of oral pain medication (9.44 ± 6.01) compared with those who did not (7.02 ± 4.71) (P = 0.022).
Postoperative pain was significantly elevated in patients who used tetracaine on POD 1 and POD 7. These patients were also more likely to take oral pain medication than those who did not use topical tetracaine. Surgeon status, season, gender, and ablation depth showed no significant differences in subjective pain scores. Oral pain medication should be evaluated to assess efficacy and safety in inhibiting ocular pain after PRK.