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Papers of the Week

Papers: 26 Aug 2023 - 1 Sep 2023

Pediatric, Review


Acute Pain, Psychological/Comorbidities

2023 Aug 09

J Clin Med




Current Evidence for Biological Biomarkers and Mechanisms Underlying Acute to Chronic Pain Transition across the Pediatric Age Spectrum.


Duff IT, Krolick KN, Mahmoud HM, Chidambaran V


Chronic pain is highly prevalent in the pediatric population. Many factors are involved in the transition from acute to chronic pain. Currently, there are conceptual models proposed, but they lack a mechanistically sound integrated theory considering the stages of child development. Objective biomarkers are critically needed for the diagnosis, risk stratification, and prognosis of the pathological stages of pain chronification. In this article, we summarize the current evidence on mechanisms and biomarkers of acute to chronic pain transitions in infants and children through the developmental lens. The goal is to identify gaps and outline future directions for basic and clinical research toward a developmentally informed theory of pain chronification in the pediatric population. At the outset, the importance of objective biomarkers for chronification of pain in children is outlined, followed by a summary of the current evidence on the mechanisms of acute to chronic pain transition in adults, in order to contrast with the developmental mechanisms of pain chronification in the pediatric population. Evidence is presented to show that chronic pain may have its origin from insults early in life, which prime the child for the development of chronic pain in later life. Furthermore, available genetic, epigenetic, psychophysical, electrophysiological, neuroimaging, neuroimmune, and sex mechanisms are described in infants and older children. In conclusion, future directions are discussed with a focus on research gaps, translational and clinical implications. Utilization of developmental mechanisms framework to inform clinical decision-making and strategies for prevention and management of acute to chronic pain transitions in children, is highlighted.