THE 5TH VITAL SIGN: PREVENTION AND MANAGEMENT OF ACUTE AND CHRONIC PAIN WORKSHOP

Palliative doctors and trainees and those interested in pain management might want to check out the upcoming pain management workshop at the shiny new Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre.

“This workshop is ideally suited to general practitioners, perioperative physicians, anaesthetists and pain specialists who seek an update on evidence-based management of acute pain in the perioperative setting. We will also highlight the latest research aimed at reducing the transition of acute pain to subacute and chronic pain and its associated morbidity.”

For more information see here 

Saturday, November 12th 2016

Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre,
Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre,
Melbourne

The right words matter when talking about pain

Michael Vagg, Barwon Health

It is no coincidence that we describe the “pain” of loneliness or the “agony” of rejected romantic feelings. Paper cuts can be “excruciatingly painful”, but so can watching the social mishaps of Basil Fawlty or David Brent. Personal criticism can be “stinging”.

The book The Patient’s Brain outlines the evidence that later evolutionary traits such as social cognition and language appear to have grafted themselves onto the ancient brain functions that alerted us to external threats or bodily damage.

Words are neurological events. They are meaning-laden puffs of air that our brain transforms into knowledge, opinions, emotions or danger signals.

Shakespeare, perhaps the greatest wordsmith of all time, frequently used bodily sensations including sensitivity to pain as metaphors. If you’ve ever complained about the “bitter cold”, called an ugly sight an “eyesore” or felt it “sharper than a serpent’s tooth … to have a thankless child” you might know what I mean.

Words affect pain

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Elsewhere in the Palliverse – Weekend Reads

photo by David Mao itsdavo

I hope you enjoy this week’s reads, which include topics like wills, funerals, dementia, research ethics and the experience of a hospice nurse who becomes carer for her mother. I hope there’s no typos – I’m rushing off to a communication skills workshop but wanted to post this before I leave.

As always, please leave your thoughts in the comments box below.

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Malignant Psoas Syndrome

Malignant psoas syndrome is said to be extremely rare, but I keep seeing it. Admittedly, working in the pain and palliative care service in a specialist cancer centre, if anyone was going to see it, you would think it would be my team.

I have had three patients with MPS this year and because each time it’s something that the clinical staff are not familiar with, I thought I would share a  short summary with the Palliverse.

The original description of MPS in 1990 (1) described patients with:

  1. Metastatic cancer involving the psoas major muscle either intrinsically (direct intramuscular metastasis), or extrinsically from metastatic retroperitoneal lymph- adenopathy infiltrating into the muscle.
  2. Painful flexion of the ipsilateral hip with positive psoas stretch test (‘‘reverse’’ straight leg raise) related to psoas muscle spasm or irritation.
  3. Clinical evidence of proximal (L1–L4) lumbar plexopathy with spontaneous, burning and lancinating pain associated with hyperalgesia (allodynia and hyperesthesia).
  4. Absence of osseous lumbar vertebral metastases and/or concomitant lumbar polyradiculopathy due to other causes (e.g., malignant neuraxial dissemination, chemotherapy-associated or radiation-induced neurotoxicity).

In 2010, Stevens et al wrote a helpful review (2) of MPS with a case review, mechanisms and theories. Five years ago, according to the paper, there had only been 28 cases reported in the English speaking literature.

I will leave interested readers to explore the papers themselves, but it describes polymodal pharmacotherapy (aka throw everything at it), plus some novel strategies like local anaesthetic block of psoas sheath.

What has encouraged me to put fingers to keyboards tonight though is the referral of yet another patient with psoas syndrome, plus this Japanese case series by Takase et al (3). It describes three patients with MPS who had excellent results with methadone (15-30 mg/day). Their average pain scores were reduced by an astounding 7 points with greatly improved function.

I am pretty keen to try adjuvant methadone for my new referral.

Have you seen any malignant psoas syndrome cases before?Were they recognised and treated as such? How did it go? Particularly keen to hear whether anyone has tried methadone. 

Sonia

References:

1. Stevens MJ, Gonet YM: Malignant psoas syndrome: Recognition of an oncologic entity. Australas Radiol 1990; 34:150–154.

2. Mark John Stevens, Charlotte Atkinson, and Andrew M. Broadbent. Journal of Palliative Medicine. February 2010, 13(2): 211-216. doi:10.1089/jpm.2009.0193.

3. Takase Naoto, Ikegaki Junichi, Nishimura Harumi, Yuasa Sayoko, Ito Yumiko, and Kizawa Yoshiyuki. Journal of Palliative Medicine. July 2015, 18(7): 645-652. doi:10.1089/jpm.2014.0387.