Estimating risk of chronic pain and disability following musculoskeletal trauma in the United Kingdom

David W. Evans, Alison Rushton, Nicola Middlebrook, Jon Bishop, Marco Barbero, Jaimin Patel, Deborah Falla*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Importance: Serious traumatic injury is a leading cause of death and disability globally, with most survivors known to develop chronic pain.

Objective: To describe early variables associated with poor long-term outcome for posttrauma pain and create a clinical screening tool for this purpose.

Design, Setting, and Participants: This was a prospective cohort study at a major trauma center hospital in England. Recruitment commenced in December 2018 and ceased in March 2020. Participants were followed up for 12 months. Patients aged 16 years or older who were hospitalized because of acute musculoskeletal trauma within the preceding 14 days were included. Data were analyzed from March to December 2021.

Exposure: Acute musculoskeletal trauma requiring admittance to a major trauma center hospital.

Main Outcomes and Measures: A poor outcome was defined as Chronic Pain Grade II or higher and measured at both 6 months (primary time point) and 12 months. A broad range of candidate variables potentially associated with outcomes were used, including surrogates for pain mechanisms, quantitative sensory testing, and psychosocial factors. Univariable models were used to identify the variables most likely to be associated with poor outcome, which were entered into multivariable models. A clinical screening tool (nomogram) was derived from 6-month results.

Results: In total, 1590 consecutive patients were assessed for eligibility, of whom 772 were deemed eligible and 124 (80 male [64.5%]; mean [SD] age, 48.9 [18.8] years) were recruited. At 6 months, 19 of 82 respondents (23.2%) reported a good outcome, whereas at 12 months 27 of 44 respondents (61.4%) reported a good outcome. At 6 months on univariable analysis, an increase in total posttraumatic stress symptoms (odds ratio [OR], 2.09; 95% CI, 1.33-3.28), pain intensity average (OR, 2.87; 95% CI, 1.37-6.00), number of fractures (OR, 2.79; 95% CI, 1.02-7.64), and pain extent (OR, 4.67; 95% CI, 1.57-13.87) were associated with worse outcomes. A multivariable model including those variables had a sensitivity of 0.93, a specificity of 0.54, and C-index of 0.92.

Conclusions and Relevance: A poor long-term pain outcome from musculoskeletal traumatic injuries may be estimated by measures recorded within days of injury. These findings suggest that posttraumatic stress symptoms, pain spatial distribution, perceived average pain intensity, and number of fractures are good candidates for a sensitive multivariable model and derived clinical screening tool.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2228870
Pages (from-to)E2228870
Number of pages16
JournalJAMA network open
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 26 Aug 2022


  • Chronic Pain
  • Disabled Persons
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases
  • Prospective Studies
  • Trauma Centers
  • United Kingdom

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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