Often I am asked about pain. I'll give you a couple of examples.
"Will the it hurt?"
This from a patient who wanted her earlobe repaired. She had missed out on a pair of diamond ear rings for Christmas, so now she had worked up the courage to have the repair done.
"I have to use a needle to put the numbing medicine in your earlobe. There will be a little pain with that, but you won't feel any pain with the actual repair. You may feel me gently move your ear as your cheek and the surrounding area won't be numb. You may also hear me cut the suture with the scissors as I will be working so near your ear."
"So you have to use scissors?!"
"Yes, I will use scissors for the suture. I will have to use a knife to cut the skin."
"But I won't feel you cut?"
"Correct. Your earlobe will be numb."
So I keep chatting with her as I get the local ready and do the injection. I finish and turn to busy myself with getting everything else set up for the procedure.
"You're done? That didn't hurt."
I smile and say, "Good. That's all the pain involved. You won't need anything other then ibuprofen when the numbing medication wears off."
A young woman who wants a cosmetic breast procedure.
"How much pain will there be after surgery?"
I recheck her surgery history. None listed. No children yet.
"Have you ever had any cuts that needed stitches? Any broken bones? Pulled muscles?" I'm looking for something to compare the pain/soreness to.
"Well, the pain of the incision is often a burning, stinging kind of pain for the first several hours. Think paper cut. Then there will be a pain similar to a deep bruise. The first couple of days are the worst. Remember it will feel less painful, less sore each day."
She seems satisfied, but I am left wondering how I could better prepare her. When someone has had surgery before, I can use it as a reference point. The purposed surgery will have less, similar, or more pain involve. When the patient is female, has had children, and the surgery is breast implants -- patients have taught me that it feels very much like "when the milk first comes in--full and tight" initially. That often helps when discussing this question.
Anyone have any suggestions when it's the patient's first surgery and there seems to be no history of painful injury (past surgery, past injury, etc) to use as a reference point? I am always looking for better ways to communicate with my patients.