Easing the Pain: New Comprehensive Pain Management Program

Dr. Ian Dobson
Dr. Ian Dobson, Chief of Anesthesia at Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre (TBRHSC).

Of all the symptoms patients experience while in hospital, pain may be the most distressing. Not only can it delay recovery from surgery and discharge home, the pain may persist for months or years.

“Appropriate pain treatment can be difficult to obtain and challenging to administer. In our Strategic Plan 2020, we have committed to enhancing the delivery of our clinical services – and that includes pain management,” explained Dr. Ian Dobson, Chief of Anesthesia. “Thanks to funding from the Ministry of Health, we’ve launched a Comprehensive Pain Management program which will deal with both acute and chronic pain and hopefully address some of these shortfalls.”

The chronic pain management component is mainly an outpatient program run through Ambulatory Care. Initially set up to assess and treat chronic back pain, the service will expand to manage other types of chronic pain syndromes.

“Treatments may include nerve blocks, pharmacologic therapy and other more novel forms of treatment such as radio-ablation and lidocaine infusions,” said Dr. Dobson. “Previously, chronic pain patients had to travel out of town for assessment and treatment, and wait lists were in excess of one year with little or no follow-up available. This is a service which is long-overdue for our region and our hope is that as the local demand grows, we will be able to recruit other interventional pain specialists and expand to handle all chronic patients locally.”

The new service is also building bridges with the behavioural pain management program at St Joseph’s Care Group supporting a holistic approach to this complex problem.

The other arm of this comprehensive pain program is the Acute Pain management service which is designed to manage short term post-operative pain. This service will involve all members of the Anesthesia department and provide daily assessment and treatment plans as well as 24/7 on-call coverage to implement optimal pain management strategies. A pain management nurse will assist with assessments and visit patients daily, under the direction of the Pain Service physician.

“The goal is to optimize pain management employing currently available modalities such as patient controlled analgesia (PCA) pumps, epidural infusions and multimodal pharmacologic therapies,” explained Dr. Dobson. “When acute pain is managed effectively it not only improves patient satisfaction and comfort, it also allows them to concentrate on their rehabilitation and other important aspects of their recovery.”

Studies have shown that appropriate management of acute pain is a key factor in avoiding the development of chronic pain syndromes. Ensuring our patients are as healthy and comfortable as possible is part of Patient and Family Centred Care, the integral philosophy of our organization.