BACKGROUND: Pain is a personal, subjective experience. In the postoperative period, pain may be influenced by patient, pharmacological and environmental factors. In surgery the aim is to reduce pain in this period by educating patients and using adequate analgesia. The aim of the present study was to assess the effect of perceived wound size on pain, as indicated by wound dressing, in the immediate postoperative period. METHODS: Patients undergoing appendicectomy were randomized into a group having a dressing the same size (SSD) as the surgical wound or double the size (DSD) of the wound. Patients' pain perception and analgesic requirements were then recorded and analysed to compare the two groups. RESULTS: Both groups had similar results when comparing pain perception. The median total pain score for the SSD and DSD groups at 12 and 24 h postoperatively revealed no statistically significant difference (P > 0.05). CONCLUSION: The data do not support the hypothesis that postoperative pain may be altered by perceived wound dressing size. Dressing size does not appear to be a variable that could easily be altered to reduce postoperative pain in surgical patients.