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Apr. 9, 2008

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Stanford Pain Center receives Center of Excellence recognition

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By TRACIE WHITE

STANFORD, Calif. — The Stanford Pain Management Center is being honored as one of six centers of excellence nationwide this year by the American Pain Society for its successful multidisciplinary approach to relieving the suffering of patients with chronic pain disorders.

The society announced the recipients of its second annual Clinical Centers of Excellence in Pain Management Awards on April 10 to recognize outstanding pain care programs in the United States.

“This is validation for the type of work we’ve been doing for the past couple of decades,” said Sean Mackey, MD, PhD, chief of the Division of Pain Management at Stanford Hospital & Clinics and associate professor of anesthesia at the Stanford University School of Medicine. “We’re seeing the pendulum swing around toward acceptance of this interdisciplinary type of pain management that involves teams of medical professionals attacking pain together.”

The pain society established the award program in 2006 to recognize multidisciplinary pain-management programs that offer direct patient care. This year, 49 applications were judged by a panel of pain-management experts.

“The award recipients and other centers are proving every day that integrated, multidisciplinary pain care yields the best long-term outcomes—medically, psychologically and socially,” said Judith Paice, PhD, pain society president and director of the cancer pain program at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

The award acknowledges a growing movement within the medical community away from the biomedical model of treating chronic pain as simply a byproduct of another disorder, Mackey said. Treatment needs to go beyond the use of surgery and medication alone.

“We’re beginning to think of pain as more a disease in its own right,” Mackey said. “Pain fundamentally alters the nervous system. It affects the individual emotionally, psychologically, and it affects their family, their friends, their work.

“Pain is the primary reason why patients go to see a doctor,” Mackey said. “It’s the most common reason somebody would be out of work. It affects people at the most productive time in their lives.”

According to national surveys of chronic pain, just under half of adults have experienced pain in the last two weeks, and nearly four in 10 do so on a regular basis with almost one in five experiencing chronic pain, Mackey said. This leads to huge health-care expenses with $100-$200 billion a year spent on pain management.

The Stanford Pain Management Center treats 6,000 patients a year who are seen by a multidisciplinary team of doctors, psychologists, physical therapists and occupational therapists.

The pain-management services include novel medications provided through clinical trials, psychological and behavioral therapies, and interventional treatments ranging from trigger-point injections to spinal-cord stimulation.

Stanford also has one of the few academic, inpatient, comprehensive pain-management programs in the United States, called the Stanford Comprehensive Interdisciplinary Pain Program. Faculty and trainees in this program hold multiple National Institute of Health awards, foundation grants and a dedicated pain research endowment.

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