Abstract: Clinical profile of rheumatic disease patients referred to a multidisciplinary pain center

J Rheumatol. 2004 Feb;31(2):359-63.

Fitzcharles MA, Almahrezi A, Ware MA.

Division of Rheumatology, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

OBJECTIVE: Good pain control is a prerequisite for success in the management of many rheumatological diseases. However, some rheumatology patients may present challenges in terms of pain management and be subsequently referred to a specialized pain clinic. We examined the characteristics and assessed the outcome of patients with rheumatic diseases who were referred to a tertiary care pain center.

METHODS: All new patients with a primary rheumatological diagnosis referred over a 9 year period to the McGill University Pain Centre were studied. Patients were identified through a computer search according to both diagnoses and symptoms. Demographic information, clinical and pain characteristics, and subsequent management and final outcome were assessed.

RESULTS: Out of a total of 1120 new patients, 60 (5%) had a primary rheumatologic diagnosis to account for pain and referral. The diagnoses were as follows: fibromyalgia in 26 (43%), inflammatory arthritis 17 (28%), degenerative arthritis 9 (15%), and soft tissue rheumatism 8 (13%). The median age at presentation was 52 years and 47 (78%) were female.

The median duration of pain was 5 years. The mean pain scores according to the McGill Pain Questionnaire and the visual analog scale were 27 +/- 15 and 7 +/- 2, respectively. Patients were followed a mean duration of 10.6 +/- 15 months. Seventy-two percent were assessed by a psychologist and 52% by a physiotherapist or occupational therapist. New pharmacologic treatments were prescribed for 47 (78%) patients, with 47% receiving opioids, 37% antidepressants, 12% nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs, 8% tranquillizers, and 18% other medications. Final outcome was described as follows: improved in 55%, no change in 43%, and worsened in 2%.

CONCLUSION: Although patients with a primary rheumatologic process to account for pain constituted a small proportion of patients evaluated, improvement was considerable in over half. Further study should address the selection of patients that are most likely to benefit from referral to multidisciplinary pain centers and the longterm outcome of such interventions.

PMID: 14760809 [PubMed – in process]

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