Pain catastrophizing is an irrational thought process that leads a patient to perceive pain as worse than it actually is. Researchers writing in the April issue of Anesthesiology investigated the efficacy of targeted antidepressant therapy in reducing this perceived pain. The study, described as the first to investigate the effects of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) on pain immediately after surgery, reported no significant benefit in the 24 hours following the procedure, although pain scores decreased in subsequent days.
The study investigated 120 patients with pain catastrophizing disorder who underwent total-knee replacement surgery. The patients were given either escitalopram or a placebo daily from the day of surgery to the sixth day after surgery, in addition to a pain medication regime. According to the authors, the findings suggest that initiating antidepressant treatment earlier may reduce pain immediately after surgery, but that further study of the effects of antidepressants on postsurgical pain are needed. Read a news story about the research findings here.