Research

By performing high-quality systematic reviews and meta-analyses, the Anesthesiology Systematic Review Lab addresses clinically relevant questions about chronic pain, including the prevalence within different patient populations, available treatments, and the effect of smoking on pain management outcomes.

Chronic pain is a prevalent condition that sometimes requires complex medical interventions. Chronic pain can have devastating effects on patients and often exacts a significant economic impact. Because of this, there's an enormous need to better understand who has chronic pain, what types of chronic pain affect different people, and how different types of chronic pain are best managed.

For example, we now know that for many patients opioid use isn't an ideal solution. As new technologies and procedures emerge that could help people avoid using opioid medications for pain, it's important to have high-quality systematic reviews to best identify useful alternative therapies for patients to control their pain. Our lab also works with trainees from within anesthesiology and other related specialties to better foster interdisciplinary thinking about clinically relevant problems.

While our lab is always engaging in new areas of research, we have several core research interests related to chronic pain management.

Neuromodulation for pain control

Neuromodulation is the alteration of nerve activity through targeted delivery of a stimulus, such as electrical stimulation or chemical agents, to specific neurological areas of the body. In chronic pain medicine, spinal cord stimulation is the main technique used for neuromodulation. Spinal cord stimulation delivers electricity to the dorsal columns of the spinal cord, which can reduce certain types of chronic pain. Our lab is interested in patient factors, such as smoking status, that make spinal cord stimulation work better for some people and not as well for others. Our lab also is interested in studying complications, such as device infections, that can derail a patient's treatment with spinal cord stimulation.

Smoking and chronic pain

Smoking is thought to adversely affect chronic pain outcomes, leading to worsened pain and more opioid use. Recent data also suggest that smoking may impact the efficacy of spinal cord stimulation. However, the relationship between smoking, chronic pain and the efficacy of spinal cord stimulation is still unclear, and we're continuing to study the effect of smoking on chronic pain outcomes to help provide better solutions for clinicians.

Technology in chronic pain medicine

Our lab is investigating the use of noninvasive technologies to improve the quality of life for patients with chronic pain. With the proliferation of the internet and mobile device use, interest in managing chronic pain using web-based applications and mobile device applications also has increased. Our lab is investigating whether a better understanding of these technologies can improve patient-important outcomes, including functional outcomes, mental health and pain scores.