Development and validation of a clinical prediction score for poor postoperative pain control following elective spine surgery

J Neurosurg Spine 34:3–12, 2021

Thirty percent to sixty-four percent of patients experience poorly controlled pain following spine surgery, leading to patient dissatisfaction and poor outcomes. Identification of at-risk patients before surgery could facilitate patient education and personalized clinical care pathways to improve postoperative pain management. Accordingly, the aim of this study was to develop and internally validate a prediction score for poorly controlled postoperative pain in patients undergoing elective spine surgery.

METHODS A retrospective cohort study was performed in adult patients (≥ 18 years old) consecutively enrolled in the Canadian Spine Outcomes and Research Network registry. All patients underwent elective cervical or thoracolumbar spine surgery and were admitted to the hospital. Poorly controlled postoperative pain was defined as a mean numeric rating scale score for pain at rest of > 4 during the first 24 hours after surgery. Univariable analysis followed by multivariable logistic regression on 25 candidate variables, selected through a systematic review and expert consensus, was used to develop a prediction model using a random 70% sample of the data. The model was transformed into an eight-tier risk-based score that was further simplified into the three-tier Calgary Postoperative Pain After Spine Surgery (CAPPS) score to maximize clinical utility. The CAPPS score was validated using the remaining 30% of the data.

RESULTS Overall, 57% of 1300 spine surgery patients experienced poorly controlled pain during the first 24 hours after surgery. Seven significant variables associated with poor pain control were incorporated into a prediction model: younger age, female sex, preoperative daily use of opioid medication, higher preoperative neck or back pain intensity, higher Patient Health Questionnaire–9 depression score, surgery involving ≥ 3 motion segments, and fusion surgery. Notably, minimally invasive surgery, body mass index, and revision surgery were not associated with poorly controlled pain. The model was discriminative (C-statistic 0.74, 95% CI 0.71–0.77) and calibrated (Hosmer-Lemeshow goodness-of-fit, p = 0.99) at predicting the outcome. Low-, high-, and extreme-risk groups stratified using the CAPPS score had 32%, 63%, and 85% predicted probability of experiencing poorly controlled pain, respectively, which was mirrored closely by the observed incidence of 37%, 62%, and 81% in the validation cohort.

CONCLUSIONS Inadequate pain control is common after spine surgery. The internally validated CAPPS score based on 7 easily acquired variables accurately predicted the probability of experiencing poorly controlled pain after spine surgery.