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Papers of the Week

2022 Mar 14

J Integr Complement Med

Integrative Approaches to Pediatric Chronic Pain in an Urban Safety-Net Hospital: Cost Savings, Clinical Benefits, and Safety.


Sommers E, D'Amico S, Goldstein L, Gardiner P
J Integr Complement Med. 2022 Mar 14.
PMID: 35285677.


Chronic pain experienced by children and adolescents represents a significant burden in terms of health, quality of life, and economic costs to U.S. families. In 2015, the Boston Medical Center (BMC) Interdisciplinary Pain Clinic initiated an Integrative Medicine (IM) team model to address chronic pain in children. Team members included a pediatrician, child psychologist, physical therapist, acupuncturist, and massage therapist. Children were referred to the pain clinic from primary care and specialty services within BMC, the largest safety-net hospital in the northeastern United States. For this observational assessment, consent and assent were obtained from parents and pediatric patients. Individualized treatment plans were recommended by the IM team. Self-reported survey and electronic medical record data were collected about socioeconomic demographics, pain, use of medical and IM services, and quality of life. The authors compared health and quality of life indicators and costs of care for each participant from the year before entering the project with these same indicators for the subsequent year. Eighty-three participants were enrolled. Participants ranged in age from 4 to 22 years (mean 14.7 years). Eighty percent of the group were females. Forty-two percent of the sample were white, 30% were Hispanic/Latinx, and 28% were African American. Primary types of pain were abdominal (52%), headache (23%), musculoskeletal (18%), and other (7%). Quality of life indicators improved ( = 0.049) and pain interference decreased (Wilcoxon  = 0.040). Major economic drivers of cost were emergency department (ED) visits, inpatient hospitalizations, and consultations with medical specialists. For the 46 participants who completed the project, the following total cost savings were noted: $27,819 (surgeries), $17,638 (ED visits), $25,033 (hospitalizations), and $42,843 (specialist consults). No adverse events were reported. The authors' experience demonstrated that the use of IM approaches in an interdisciplinary team approach is safe, feasible, and acceptable to families. Considerable cost savings were observed in the area of surgical procedures, hospitalizations, and consultations with specialists.