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Flagging the pain: preventing the burden of chronic pain by identifying and treating risk factors in acute pain

Shipton, E. A.*; Tait, B.*

European Journal of Anaesthesiology (EJA): June 2005 - Volume 22 - Issue 6 - p 405–412
doi: 10.1017/S0265021505000694

Chronic pain represents a major public health problem that impacts negatively on quality-of-life issues and healthcare costs. Unrelieved acute post-traumatic and postoperative pains are risk factors in the development of chronic pain, although psychological and environmental factors are at work as well. Flagging pain (blue, yellow and red flags) helps to identify risk factors in acute pain that need attention to avoid the transition from acute postoperative pain to acute persistent and then on to chronic pain. This offers a unique opportunity for preventative medicine.

* University of Otago, Christchurch School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Department of Anaesthesia, Christchurch, New Zealand

Correspondence to: Edward A. Shipton, Department of Anaesthesia, Christchurch School of Medicine, University of Otago, PO Box 4345, Christchurch 8001, New Zealand. E-mail:; Tel: +64 3 357 8599; Fax: +64 3 357 2594

Accepted for publication April 2005

© 2005 European Society of Anaesthesiology