In collaboration with Keck School of Medicine

How Anesthesia May Impact Chronic Pain


Each year, millions of people have surgery for a variety of reasons. Whether or not they are related to a chronic pain condition, the surgery itself may impact the chronic pain one experiences. Researchers are beginning to see the connection between the gut microbiome and the impact that anesthesia may have on pain.

In the May 2022 issue of the journal Anesthesiology, researchers shared their findings on how gut microbiome and anesthesia may impact people’s pain and how they respond to pain medications [1]. They found that the gut microbiome changes after general anesthesia when using animal models. The changes impact how the host responds to drugs, including anesthesia and opioids.

They report that the gut microbiome has been associated with postoperative pain, among other conditions. The gut microbiome has been found in human models to be associated with various chronic pain conditions, including complex regional pain syndrome, headaches, visceral pain, neuropathic pain, etc.

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This is helpful information for those who help people with chronic pain management or help with care following surgery. Some people may develop pain issues following the surgery, while others with chronic pain may find some changes in their pain or respond to pain medications.

The gut microbiome has been getting more attention in recent years as researchers find the significant role that it plays in human health. According to a study published in the September 2019 issue of the British Journal of Anesthesiology, the gut microbiome is a crucial modulator of visceral pain and plays a critical role in many other types of chronic pain [2]. This study follows numerous others that have linked the gut microbiome to pain. They suggest that targeting gut microbiota with diet and pharmabiotic intervention may help chronic pain management.

Researchers are still searching for answers regarding the gut microbiome’s role in chronic pain. They are still learning a lot about the vital role the gut microbiome plays in someone’s overall health, including how it relates to and influences chronic pain issues. Having a healthy gut microbiome is believed to help people be more beneficial overall and help to reduce the risks of many diseases.

The microbiome is essentially the garden of bacteria that populate the gut, made up of beneficial and potentially harmful ones. Each person has a different gut microbiome, which is influenced by various factors, including diet, lifestyle, medications, etc. Things people can do to help improve their gut microbiome include eating a diet with plenty of fiber, eating fermented foods, and reducing sugar intake.

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  1. Anesthesiology. Gut Microbiome in Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine. May 2022.
  2. British Journal of Anesthesiology. Pain regulation by gut microbiota. September 2019.

This article was originally published on Confronting Chronic Pain by Dr. Steven Richeimer, Director Pain Medicine Master and Certificate.

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Posted: July 25, 2022
<a href="" target="_self">Dr. Steven H. Richeimer</a>

Dr. Steven H. Richeimer

Steven Richeimer, M.D. is a renowned specialist on issues related to chronic pain. He is the chief of the Division of Pain Medicine at the University of Southern California. He has written or co-written a large number of scientific articles about pain medicine. He recently published an instructive book and guide for pain patients. Dr. Richeimer has given numerous lectures to medical and lay audiences throughout the U.S.

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