November 10, 2011

Newly created center seeks to ease chronic pain

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Marc Huntoon, M.D., is the director of the new Vanderbilt Pain Management Center, located at Vanderbilt Health One Hundred Oaks. (photo by Susan Urmy)

Newly created center seeks to ease chronic pain

Chronic pain affects 116 million people in the United States — more than diabetes, heart disease and cancer combined — according to the Institute of Medicine.

Because pain is complex and often involves physiological, psychological, emotional and environmental factors, Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s new Pain Management Center, located at Vanderbilt Health One Hundred Oaks, will take a multidisciplinary approach to pain care, offering thorough evaluations, consultations and referrals to a wide range of treatment modalities.

“The center is for all patients who have pain, regardless of cause and what has or hasn’t been done previously. It will be the first stop for pain patients at Vanderbilt,” said Marc Huntoon, M.D., chief of the Division of Pain Medicine and director of the Vanderbilt Pain Management Center.

Many patients seen in pain clinics suffer from back and neck pain, but the Pain Management Center will see patients with all types of pain, including abdominal, pelvic, nerve and joint pain, and chronic headache.

During their first clinic visit, a patient’s medical history will be thoroughly reviewed, and their condition will be evaluated by Vanderbilt pain specialists to develop a team-based treatment plan. This team could include specialists from Anesthesiology, Psychology, Psychiatry, Neurology, Neurosurgery and Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation.

Part of the treatment plan could include referral to the Vanderbilt Interventional Pain Center or to the Vanderbilt Center for Integrative Health. Pain Management Center physicians will also work closely with a patient’s primary care providers.

“Providers at the primary care level often haven’t had the right resources for pain care. At the Pain Management Center, we want to build relationships with primary care providers, get patients the care they need, and work on an ongoing basis with the providers,” Huntoon said. “We see it as a very collaborative and supportive relationship.”

In addition to treatment, the Pain Management Center will help patients better cope with chronic pain.

“Pain is a disease now, much like obesity or diabetes. In many cases, pain will be a permanent part of a patient’s problem list, and they need to learn how to cope with that on a long-term basis,” Huntoon said.

Huntoon hopes to eventually offer an inpatient pain rehabilitation program and “Pain University,” an educational seminar to teach patients about their disease and strategies to manage symptoms.

The Vanderbilt Medical Group Pain Advisory Council began to envision a pain center more than a year ago, striving to create an easy referral resource for both Vanderbilt physicians and outside providers that offers cutting-edge care based on the latest evidence.

When Huntoon arrived at Vanderbilt in June, he had much the same plan.

“The Pain Advisory Council includes physicians and nurse practitioners from multiple disciplines,” said Rob Hood, M.D., medical director for Vanderbilt Health One Hundred Oaks and chair of the Pain Advisory Council.

“The council was created to provide organization and coordination among the various individuals at Vanderbilt whose expertise and clinical practice focus on pain management. Our most important goal was to facilitate access for patients with challenging pain syndromes to the right provider and clinic. It was remarkable how closely the specific recommendations which were developed by the Pain Advisory Council mirrored Dr. Huntoon’s own approach to pain management.”

“Many institutions try to do this to some extent but are unable to achieve the multi-disciplinary vision,” Huntoon said. “The idea is that pain crosses many boundaries. No one specialty has the knowledge and capabilities to best serve all patients, but if we put our heads together, we can reach that optimal care.”

The Pain Management Center opens Monday, Nov. 14. To reach the Center, call 875-PAIN.