Summary Chronic pain causes significant suffering, limitation of daily activities and reduced quality of life. Infection from COVID‐19 is responsible for an ongoing pandemic that causes severe acute respiratory syndrome, leading to systemic complications and death. Led by the World Health Organization, healthcare systems across the world are engaged in limiting the spread of infection. As a result, all elective surgical procedures, outpatient procedures and patient visits, including pain management services, have been postponed or cancelled. This has affected the care of chronic pain patients. Most are elderly with multiple comorbidities, which puts them at risk of COVID‐19 infection. Important considerations that need to be recognised during this pandemic for chronic pain patients include: ensuring continuity of care and pain medications, especially opioids; use of telemedicine; maintaining biopsychosocial management; use of anti‐inflammatory drugs; use of steroids; and prioritising necessary procedural visits. There are no guidelines to inform physicians and healthcare providers engaged in caring for patients with pain during this period of crisis. We assembled an expert panel of pain physicians, psychologists and researchers from North America and Europe to formulate recommendations to guide practice. As the COVID‐19 situation continues to evolve rapidly, these recommendations are based on the best available evidence and expert opinion at this present time and may need adapting to local workplace policies.
BackgroundThe past two decades have witnessed a surge in the use of lumbar facet blocks and radiofrequency ablation (RFA) to treat low back pain (LBP), yet nearly all aspects of the procedures remain controversial.MethodsAfter approval by the Board of Directors of the American Society of Regional Anesthesia and Pain Medicine, letters were sent to a dozen pain societies, as well as representatives from the US Departments of Veterans Affairs and Defense. A steering committee was convened to select preliminary questions, which were revised by the full committee. Questions were assigned to 4–5 person modules, who worked with the Subcommittee Lead and Committee Chair on preliminary versions, which were sent to the full committee. We used a modified Delphi method, whereby the questions were sent to the committee en bloc and comments were returned in a non-blinded fashion to the Chair, who incorporated the comments and sent out revised versions until consensus was reached.Results17 questions were selected for guideline development, with 100% consensus achieved by committee members on all topics. All societies except for one approved every recommendation, with one society dissenting on two questions (number of blocks and cut-off for a positive block before RFA), but approving the document. Specific questions that were addressed included the value of history and physical examination in selecting patients for blocks, the value of imaging in patient selection, whether conservative treatment should be used before injections, whether imaging is necessary for block performance, the diagnostic and prognostic value of medial branch blocks (MBB) and intra-articular (IA) injections, the effects of sedation and injectate volume on validity, whether facet blocks have therapeutic value, what the ideal cut-off value is for a prognostic block, how many blocks should be performed before RFA, how electrodes should be oriented, the evidence for larger lesions, whether stimulation should be used before RFA, ways to mitigate complications, if different standards should be applied to clinical practice and clinical trials and the evidence for repeating RFA (see table 12 for summary).ConclusionsLumbar medial branch RFA may provide benefit to well-selected individuals, with MBB being more predictive than IA injections. More stringent selection criteria are likely to improve denervation outcomes, but at the expense of more false-negatives. Clinical trials should be tailored based on objectives, and selection criteria for some may be more stringent than what is ideal in clinical practice.
Background: The unexpected COVID-19 crisis has disrupted medical education and patient care in unprecedented ways. Despite the challenges, the health-care system and patients have been both creative and resilient in finding robust “temporary” solutions to these challenges. It is not clear if some of these COVID-era transitional steps will be preserved in the future of medical education and telemedicine. Objectives: The goal of this commentary is to address the sometimes substantial changes in medical education, continuing medical education (CME) activities, residency and fellowship programs, specialty society meetings, and telemedicine, and to consider the value of some of these profound shifts to “business as usual” in the health-care sector. Methods: This is a commentary is based on the limited available literature, online information, and the front-line experiences of the authors. Results: COVID-19 has clearly changed residency and fellowship programs by limiting the amount of hands-on time physicians could spend with patients. Accreditation Council for Graduate Medicine Education has endorsed certain policy changes to promote greater flexibility in programs but still rigorously upholds specific standards. Technological interventions such as telemedicine visits with patients, virtual meetings with colleagues, and online interviews have been introduced, and many trainees are “technoomnivores” who are comfortable using a variety of technology platforms and techniques. Webinars and e-learning are gaining traction now, and their use, practicality, and cost-effectiveness may make them important in the post-COVID era. CME activities have migrated increasingly to virtual events and online programs, a trend that may also continue due to its practicality and cost-effectiveness. While many medical meetings of specialty societies have been postponed or cancelled altogether, technology allows for virtual meetings that may offer versatility and time-saving opportunities for busy clinicians. It may be that future medical meetings embrace a hybrid approach of blending digital with face-toface experience. Telemedicine was already in place prior to the COVID-19 crisis but barriers are rapidly coming down to its widespread use and patients seem to embrace this, even as health-care systems navigate the complicated issues of cybersecurity and patient privacy. Regulatory guidance may be needed to develop safe, secure, and patient-friendly telehealth applications. Telemedicine has affected the prescribing of controlled substances in which online counseling, informed consent, and follow-up must be done in a virtual setting. For example, pill counts can be done in a video call and patients can still get questions answered about their pain therapy, although it is likely that after the crisis, prescribing controlled substances may revert to face-to-face visits. Limitations: The health-care system finds itself in a very fluid situation at the time this was written and changes are still occurring and being assessed. Conclusions: Many of the technological changes imposed so abruptly on the health-care system by the COVID-19 pandemic may be positive and it may be beneficial that some of these transitions be preserved or modified as we move forward. Clinicians must be objective in assessing these changes and retaining those changes that clearly improve health-care education and patient care as we enter the COVID era. Key words: Continuing medical education, COVID-19, fellowship program, medical education, medical meetings, residency program, telehealth, telemedicine
BACKGROUND CONTEXT: The North American Spine Society's (NASS) Evidence Based Clinical Guideline for the Diagnosis and Treatment of Low Back Pain features evidence-based recommendations for diagnosing and treating adult patients with nonspecific low back pain. The guideline is intended to reflect contemporary treatment concepts for nonspecific low back pain as reflected in the highest quality clinical literature available on this subject as of February 2016. PURPOSE: The purpose of the guideline is to provide an evidence-based educational tool to assist spine specialists when making clinical decisions for adult patients with nonspecific low back pain. This article provides a brief summary of the evidence-based guideline recommendations for diagnosing and treating patients with this condition. STUDY DESIGN: This is a guideline summary review. METHODS: This guideline is the product of the Low Back Pain Work Group of NASS' Evidence-Based Clinical Guideline Development Committee. The methods used to develop this guideline are detailed in the complete guideline and technical report available on the NASS website. In brief, a multidisciplinary work group of spine care specialists convened to identify clinical questions to address in the guideline. The literature search strategy was developed in consultation with medical librarians. Upon completion of the systematic literature search, evidence relevant to the clinical questions posed in the guideline was reviewed. Work group members utilized NASS evidentiary table templates to summarize study conclusions, identify study strengths and weaknesses, and assign levels of evidence. Work group members participated in webcasts and in-person rate expert opinion when necessary. The draft guideline was submitted to an internal and external peer review process and ultimately approved by the NASS Board of Directors. RESULTS: Eighty-two clinical questions were addressed, and the answers are summarized in this article. The respective recommendations were graded according to the levels of evidence of the supporting literature. CONCLUSIONS: The evidence-based clinical guideline has been created using techniques of evidence-based medicine and best available evidence to aid practitioners in the diagnosis and treatment of adult patients with nonspecific low back pain. The entire guideline document, including the evidentiary tables, literature search parameters, literature attrition flowchart, suggestions for future research, and all of the references,
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