The public health crisis attributed to opioids has placed increasing emphasis on other approaches to pain management, both pharmacologic and nonpharmacologic. Although some people find the term “multimodal pain management” to be ambiguous when used in clinical research or patient care, it emphasizes the need for a broader (and multidisciplinary) approach to pain management.
On the pharmacologic side, pregabalin has been found to be a variably effective adjunctive analgesic in research involving joint arthroplasty. However, its use in adolescents and children has not been adequately explored. In the February 5, 2020 issue of The Journal, Helenius et al. investigate the impact of pregabalin on total opioid consumption and pain scores in a randomized, placebo-controlled trial of 63 adolescents undergoing posterior instrumented spinal-fusion procedures. These operations are quite invasive and often result in ICU admission because of the amount of narcotics required. In this study, induction and maintenance of anesthesia and mobilization protocols were standardized for patients in both the pregabalin and placebo groups, and the authors precisely measured opioid consumption during the first 48 hours after surgery with data from patient-controlled anesthesia systems.
According to the findings from this adequately powered trial, adjunctive pregabalin did not have a positive impact on opioid consumption or postoperative pain scores. Despite these negative findings, it is my hope that this drug and others being investigated as adjunctive “modes” in multimodal pain management will be subjected to similarly designed trials, so we can accurately determine which agents work best in limiting opioid utilization.
Marc Swiontkowski, MD
OrthoBuzz occasionally receives posts from guest bloggers. This guest post comes from Carl Nunziato, MD and Anthony Johnson, MD in response to a TV news segment on WLWT in Cincinnati.
While viewing the WLWT segment on youth sports injury, we were encouraged that the reporter sought out a local orthopedic surgeon to comment on the risks associated with single-sport specialization. As orthopaedic surgeons, our opinions are a trusted voice in our communities, and we need to educate athletes, coaches, and parents alike of the dangers of such specialization. We commend Dr. Timothy Kremchek for his involvement in his local community and have felt the frustration he expressed regarding the rising sport-injury rates among adolescents.
However, we caution providers against characterizing single-sport specialization as “child abuse,” as Dr. Kremchek did in this segment. This extreme language, even if used to emphasize the potentially serious nature of some sport injuries, is counterproductive. Instead, we encourage all musculoskeletal clinicians to focus on educating the public on how to reduce risk in adolescent athletes, rather than shaming or blaming.
We’ve helped many patients—both minors and adults—as they struggled to rehab from injuries, only to realize that returning to the same level of competition may not be possible. In such cases, many patients and/or their parents ask the same guilt-ridden questions as the mother of the young basketball player in the news segment: “Did I make a mistake? Did I push too hard?”
It is true that youthful participation in a single sport year-round has been shown to result in increased injury rates, burnout, and possibly even limitations in peak performance in the chosen sport due to delayed development of other muscle groups and fine motor skills. We also cannot deny the risks and costs associated with the increase in operations on young athletes. It’s key to remember, however, the principal concept of patient autonomy. As the young patient in the story reminds us, these kids often truly love their sport – and many would choose to continue participating even if they knew the risk and seriousness of eventual injury.
Instead of using sensational phrases like “child abuse,” which may frighten families or stir up feelings of guilt, we should provide resources for coaches, parents, physicians, and athletes aimed at encouraging healthy participation and minimization of one-sport injuries. One example is the AAOS/AOSSM OneSport initiative. Educating patients and their families requires significant time and effort on the part of the orthopaedic surgeon, but it is likely to result in a more positive interaction with the patient and parents. And these interactions may help emphasize the long-term lifestyle behaviors that we are hoping to cultivate among these vulnerable populations.
Carl A. Nunziato, MD is a resident in orthopaedic surgery at Dell Medical School in Austin, Texas. Anthony Johnson, MD is the orthopaedic surgery residency program director in the Department of Surgery and Perioperative Care at Dell Medical School.