Opioid Sparing Alternatives for Headache and Abdominal Pain

Assessment of Novel Applications of Interventional Procedures Yields Encouraging Results

Findings from 2 recent studies conducted by researchers at the University of Wisconsin affirm the value of interventional procedures as opioid sparing alternatives for the management of chronic headache and abdominal pain. Lead researcher Alaa Abd-Elsayed, MD, MPH, medical director at the pain clinic at UW Health, detailed successful outcomes from novel applications of 2 such procedures, radiofrequency ablation and nerve block with steroids. In 2 retrospective analyses, radiofrequency ablation, typically performed for back and joint pain, was found to be effective in managing chronic headache pain, and nerve block was found effective for control of chronic abdominal pain. The findings appear, respectively, in the online edition of the Ochsner Journal, and in the journal Pain Practice.

In the study of radiofrequency ablation for headache pain, 57 patients received 72 radiofrequency ablations of pericranial nerves between 2014 and 2016, with 46 patients reporting a reduction in their pain levels for an average of 4 months or more. In the study of nerve block for chronic abdominal pain in a cohort of patients who received 45 nerve blocks, 36 of the treatments achieved a 50% reduction in pain with relief lasting for an average of 84 days. Dr. Abd-Elsayed is pursuing support for the conduct of randomized trials to compare the procedures with placebo and with other treatment alternatives.

Read a news story about the study conclusions, with links to the journal abstracts.

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