Health Technology Brief

supporting sound, evidence-based decision making

Microcurrent Electrical Therapy for the Treatment of Postoperative Pain

November 1, 2018

Health Problem: Acute postoperative pain is common across a variety of surgical procedures, including both hard- and soft-tissue surgeries. Inadequately controlled pain negatively affects quality of life and the recovery of function and may result in an increase in morbidity, recovery time, opioid use, the risk of complications, and the risk of persistent postsurgical pain.

Technology Description: Microcurrent electrical therapy (MET) is a form of electrical stimulation therapy that uses current in the microampere range, typically low frequencies, and low resistance probes or self-adhesive electrode patches. Probe or patch placement is typically on either side of the area being treated.

Controversy: Concerns regarding the opioid epidemic have fueled considerable interest in nonpharmacological strategies for pain management in recent years. Numerous U.S. federal regulatory agencies have advised or mandated that nonpharmacologic options for pain be offered by healthcare systems and providers. Controversies specific to MET include optimal treatment protocols, effectiveness, durability of the effect, patient selection criteria, and cost-effectiveness.

Key Questions:

  • Is MET effective for the treatment of postoperative pain in adults?
  • How does MET compare with usual care treatment?
  • Is MET safe for the treatment of postoperative pain in adults?
  • Have definitive patient selection criteria been identified for the use of MET for the treatment of postoperative pain in adults?