Sex differences in negative affect and postoperative pain in patients undergoing total knee arthroplasty

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Background: Knee osteoarthritis (OA) is among the most common and disabling persistent pain conditions, with increasing prevalence in the developed world, and affects women to a greater degree than men. In the USA, the growth of knee OA has been paralleled by an increase in rates of total knee arthroplasty (TKA), a surgical treatment option for late-stage knee OA. While TKA outcomes are generally good, postoperative trajectories of pain vary widely, with some patients reporting a complete absence of pain, but with a significant minority reporting worsening pain. Biopsychosocial factors, including anxiety and depression, are known to contribute importantly to the experience of joint pain, with women reporting a higher degree of negative affective symptoms. Methods: This study investigated sex differences in TKA outcomes in age-matched groups of men and women at two academic medical centers. Pain and physical function were assessed in 100 patients (50 men and 50 women) during the perioperative period (preoperative visit - 6 weeks postsurgical). The association of preoperative negative affect (anxiety and depression scores) to postoperative pain and function was evaluated, with specific attention to sex differences in this relationship. Results: Overall, women reported more baseline pain-related physical dysfunction (although not higher baseline pain scores), as well as higher acute postoperative pain scores during the 2 weeks following TKA than their male counterparts. By 6 weeks postoperatively, sex differences in reported pain were no longer evident. Interestingly, although women reported higher preoperative levels of emotional distress than men, preoperative anxiety and depression scores were better predictors of severe postoperative pain among men than women, throughout the postoperative test period. Conclusions: This study underlines the importance of considering sex and psychosocial factors, as well as their interaction, in understanding postsurgical pain trajectories.




Nandi, M., Schreiber, K. L., Martel, M. O., Cornelius, M., Campbell, C. M., Haythornthwaite, J. A., … Edwards, R. R. (2019). Sex differences in negative affect and postoperative pain in patients undergoing total knee arthroplasty. Biology of Sex Differences, 10(1).

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