Pain Management Symposium Focuses on Study Design

Designing studies to answer questions about surgical procedures takes a lot of thought, effort, and experience. Creating robust study designs to investigate pain management related to musculoskeletal conditions and procedures presents additional, unique challenges.

On November 19, 2019, more than 30 orthopaedic researchers and journal editors convened to identify—and propose solutions for—those challenges. The one-of-a-kind Pain Management Research Symposium was supported by a grant from the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS award number 1R13AR076879-01) and hosted by The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery.

Several themes emerged from the daylong discussions and presentations:

  • Despite the fact that 80% of opioid prescriptions worldwide originate in the US, outcome measures going forward should focus on effective pain management rather than reduced or “zero” opioids.
  • The wide variability of definitions of key research terms such as “opioid naïve” and “persistent opioid use” makes it difficult to reach robust conclusions from prior opioid/pain management research.
  • Beware false equations/assumptions. For example, opioid prescription filling is not the same as opioid consumption, and persistent opioid use after surgery does not equal iatrogenic opioid dependence.
  • Surgeons and other physicians must maintain a biopsychosocial perspective on pain management. Risk factors for persistent use of opioids include mental/emotional states such as depression and catastrophizing.
  • Despite some equivocal reports in the orthopaedic literature, there is no convincing evidence that NSAIDs negatively affect fracture healing. Therefore, absent specific patient contraindications, NSAIDs can be considered for pain management in trauma cases.

Many more details from the Pain Management Research Symposium will appear in a special JBJS supplement, scheduled for publication in the first half of 2020.

The Journal would again like to thank all the participants for their time and energy and NIAMS for its support.

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