The Journal of Pain Summary
Highlight from The Journal of Pain (Volume 20, No. 3, March 2019)
Waiting for a Pediatric Chronic Pain Clinic Evaluation: A Prospective Study Characterizing Waiting Times and Symptom Trajectories
Tonya M. Palermo, Margaret Slack, Chuan Zhou, Rachel Aaron, Emma Fisher, Sade Rodriguez
Chronic pain during childhood is prevalent and costly, but access to interdisciplinary pain care is limited. This study aimed to determine wait list times and the longitudinal trends of pain and physical, mental, and social health over a 12-week period. Studies investigating adults waiting for pain clinic evaluation found that symptoms and quality of life deteriorate over the waiting period, but little is known about the experience of adolescents.
Epidemiological studies show that chronic pain is common in children and adolescents with median prevalence rates of 11% to 38%, depending on the condition. Chronic pain negatively affects such aspects of life including school attendance; social, physical, and athletic activities; and emotional functioning. This also places individuals at risk for developing or continuing chronic pain issues into adulthood. Costs of childhood pain are higher than costs of other common childhood conditions, estimated at $19.5 billion annually in the United States, with potential to increase substantially as youth age into adulthood.
This study included 97 patients between ages 10–18 years who were waiting for evaluation at an interdisciplinary pediatric pain clinic. Subjects completed assessments at enrollment, 4, 8, and 12-week follow-up. The authors performed a medical record review of attendance patterns 12 months later.
Findings demonstrate an average wait time of 6.5 months, during which youths’ pain and physical and social health remained impaired. These researchers report that lengthy wait periods suggest a pressing need for improved access to pain treatment facilities for children and adolescents with chronic pain. Further, novel strategies of referral and triage need to be tested for youths with chronic pain referred for interdisciplinary pain care.