A pain management guideline was developed at the Royal Columbian Hospital, New Westminster, British Columbia, to prevent pain after cardiac surgery. The guideline was based on a wellness model and was predicated on the World Health Organization’s analgesic ladder. Patients are given nonopioids around the clock and throughout the postoperative stay and are given an opioid to prevent procedural pain and treat breakthrough pain. In an evaluation of the guideline, records from 133 cardiac surgery patients were retrospectively reviewed. The type and dose of analgesics administered for the first 6 days after surgery, the effectiveness of the pain management plan, the occurrence of adverse effects, time to extubation, and postoperative lengths of stay were determined. Ninety-five percent of patients had effective pain relief. Almost all patients received acetaminophen around the clock. A total of 89% received indomethacin. All patients received opioids intermittently. Doses of opioids were converted to morphine oral equivalents, which peaked on day 1 after surgery (38 equivalents) and decreased sharply by day 2 (<10 equivalents). Median postoperative length of stay was 5 days for patients who had bypass surgery and 6 days for patients who had valve surgery. This proactive, low-tech, low-risk, well-tolerated pain management approach is cost-effective, simple, and feasible to use. The findings support use of this approach in managing pain after cardiac surgery.

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