Systematic Review on Pain-Related Outcome Domains After Sternotomy: A First Step Toward the Development of a Core Outcome Set

Pain after surgery has a major impact on acute and long-term recovery and quality of life, but its management is often insufficient. To enhance the quality of research and to allow for better comparability between studies, it is important to harmonize outcomes for assessing the efficacy and effectiveness of pain management interventions after surgery. As a first step in developing a core outcome set, this study aimed to systematically search for outcome domains assessed in research regarding acute pain management after sternotomy as an example of a typically painful surgical procedure.

A systematic literature review was performed using MEDLINE, Embase, and CENTRAL. Eligibility criteria consisted of randomized controlled trials and observational trials targeting pain management after sternotomy in adults in the acute postoperative setting (=2 weeks). After duplicate removal and title and abstract screening by 2 independent reviewers, study characteristics and outcome domains were identified, which were extracted from full texts and summarized qualitatively.

Of 1350 studies retrieved by database searching, 156 studies were included for full-text extraction. A total of 80 different outcome domains were identified: pain intensity, analgesic consumption, physiological function, and adverse events were the most frequent ones. Outcome domains were often not explicitly reported, and the combination of domains and assessment tools was heterogeneous. The choice of outcomes is commonly made within clinicians; patients’ perspectives are not considered.

The wide variety of commonly applied outcome domains, the nonexplicit wording, and the heterogeneous combination of the domains indicating treatment benefit demonstrate the need for harmonization of outcomes assessing perioperative pain management after surgery.


T.V. Maeßen, MD, E. Austenfeld, MD, U. Kaiser, PhD, S. Bigalke, MD, C.H. Meyer-Frießem, MD, H. Liedgens, MaHE, P.K. Zahn, MD,E.M. Pogatzki-Zahn, MD


Pages: -
Year: 2021
DOI: 10.1016/j.jval.2021.01.016

Further Study Information

Current Stage: Completed
Funding source(s):

Health Area

Disease Category: Anaesthesia & pain control

Disease Name: Postoperative pain

Target Population

Age Range: 18 - 99

Sex: Either

Nature of Intervention: Management of care

Stakeholders Involved

Study Type

- Systematic review of outcomes measured in trials


- Systematic review