Pain Management Experiences Among Hospitalized Postcraniotomy Brain Tumor Patients

Rebecca E Foust Winton, Claire B Draucker, Diane Von Ah
Cancer Nursing 2020 July 9

BACKGROUND: Brain tumors account for the majority of central nervous system tumors, and most are removed by craniotomies. Many postcraniotomy patients experience moderate or severe pain after surgery, but patient perspectives on their experiences with pain management in the hospital have not been well described.

OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study was to describe how patients who have undergone a craniotomy for brain tumor removal experience pain management while hospitalized.

METHODS: Qualitative descriptive methods using semistructured interviews were conducted with patients on a neurological step-down unit in an urban teaching hospital in the Midwest United States. Interviews focused on how patients experienced postcraniotomy pain and how it was managed. Narratives were analyzed with standard content analytic procedures.

RESULTS: Twenty-seven participants (median age, 58.5 years; interquartile range, 26-41 years; range, 21-83 years) were interviewed. The majority were white (n = 25) and female (n = 15) and had an anterior craniotomy (n = 25) with sedation (n = 17). Their pain experiences varied on 2 dimensions: salience of pain during recovery and complexity of pain management. Based on these dimensions, 3 distinct types of pain management experiences were identified: (1) pain-as-nonsalient, routine pain management experience; (2) pain-as-salient, routine pain management experience; and (3) pain-as-salient, complex pain management experience.

CONCLUSIONS: Many postcraniotomy patients experience their pain as tolerable and/or pain management as satisfying and effective; others experience pain and pain management as challenging.

IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE: Clinicians should be attuned to needs of patients with complex pain management experiences and should incorporate good patient/clinician communication.

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