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Papers of the Week

Papers: 6 Feb 2021 - 12 Feb 2021

Human Studies

2021 Jan-Dec

Mol Pain


Brain Structure and Function of Chronic Low Back Pain Patients on Long-Term Opioid Analgesic Treatment: A Preliminary Study.


Murray K, Lin Y, Makary MM, Whang PG, Geha P
Mol Pain. 2021 Jan-Dec; 17:1744806921990938.
PMID: 33567986.


Chronic low back pain (CLBP) is often treated with opioid analgesics (OA), a class of medications associated with a significant risk of misuse. However, little is known about how treatment with OA affect the brain in chronic pain patients. Gaining this knowledge is a necessary first step towards understanding OA associated analgesia and elucidating long-term risk of OA misuse. Here we study CLBP patients chronically medicated with opioids without any evidence of misuse and compare them to CLBP patients not on opioids and to healthy controls using structural and functional brain imaging. CLBP patients medicated with OA showed loss of volume in the nucleus accumbens and thalamus, and an overall significant decrease in signal to noise ratio in their sub-cortical areas. Power spectral density analysis (PSD) of frequency content in the accumbens' resting state activity revealed that both medicated and unmedicated patients showed loss of PSD within the slow-5 frequency band (0.01-0.027 Hz) while only CLBP patients on OA showed additional density loss within the slow-4 frequency band (0.027-0.073 Hz). We conclude that chronic treatment with OA is associated with altered brain structure and function within sensory limbic areas.