New study aims to improve chronic pain treatment

Aug 30 2013

Tracking which treatments actually work for the one in five children and adults who suffer from chronic pain is the focus of a new study that hopes to improve the understanding of how we deal with pain in Australia and New Zealand.

The electronic Persistent Pain Outcomes Collaboration (ePOCC), an initiative of the Faculty of Pain Medicine of the Australian of New Zealand College of Anaesthetists, aims to compare or benchmark the treatment approaches used by pain centres across Australia and New Zealand.

Start-up funding for the project has come from the NSW Ministry of Health and Medical Research.

Pain medicine specialist Dr Chris Hayes, Director of the Hunter Integrated Pain Service at John Hunter Hospital, said the study had already been launched at 11 sites across NSW. It will be rolled out to other states and across New Zealand in a bid to accurately document the strategies that are most effective in reducing the burden of pain.

“There are very diverse treatments, even for similar conditions, and we need to find a way to capture what works well and what doesn’t,” Dr Hayes said.

The factors contributing to pain are multiple and extremely varied – there is pain triggered by illness, by injury or surgery. In addition emotional stress and lifestyle factors around the time of onset of pain or earlier in life can play a role. Any of these contributors can be addressed in developing a plan of treatment for chronic pain.

The study will collect and compare data on how a patient’s pain changes and how their function improves as they go through treatment. The initial focus will be on comparing broadly similar treatment approaches. In the future there will be the capacity to analyse response to very specific treatments.

The study will provide regular reports to participating services,develop a national benchmarking system to improve pain management outcomes and provide a framework for future research.