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      Management of breakthrough pain in children with cancer

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          Breakthrough pain in children with cancer is an exacerbation of severe pain that occurs over a background of otherwise controlled pain. There are no randomized controlled trials in the management of breakthrough pain in children with cancer, and limited data and considerable experience indicate that breakthrough pain in this pediatric patient group is common, underassessed, and undertreated. An ideal therapeutic agent would be rapid in onset, have a relatively short duration, and would be easy to administer. A less effective pharmacologic strategy would be increasing a patient’s dose of scheduled opioids, because this may increase the risk of oversedation. The most common and effective strategy seems to be multimodal analgesia that includes an immediate-release opioid (eg, morphine, fentanyl, hydromorphone, or diamorphine) administered intravenously by a patient-controlled analgesia pump, ensuring an onset of analgesic action within minutes. Intranasal fentanyl (or hydromorphone) may be an alternative, but no pediatric data have been published yet for commercially available fentanyl transmucosal application systems (ie, sublingual tablets/spray, buccal lozenge/tablet/film, and nasal spray), and these products cannot yet be recommended for use with children with cancer and breakthrough pain. The aim of this paper was to emphasize the dearth of available information on treatment of breakthrough pain in pediatric cancer patients, to describe the treatment protocols we currently recommend based on clinical experience, and to suggest future research on this very important and under-researched topic.

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          Most cited references 19

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          Breakthrough pain: definition, prevalence and characteristics.

           R Portenoy,  N Hagen (1990)
          In the cancer population, the term breakthrough pain typically refers to a transitory flare of pain in the setting of chronic pain managed with opioid drugs. The prevalence and characteristics of this phenomenon have not been defined, and its impact on patient care is unknown. We developed operational definitions for breakthrough pain and its major characteristics, and applied these in a prospective survey of patients with cancer pain. Data were collected during a 3 month period from consecutive patients who reported moderate pain or less for more than 12 h daily and stable opioid dosing for a minimum of 2 consecutive days. Of 63 patients surveyed, 41 (64%) reported breakthrough pain, transient flares of severe or excruciating pain. Fifty-one different pains were described (median 4 pains/day; range 1-3600). Pain characteristics were extremely varied. Twenty-two (43%) pains were paroxysmal in onset; the remainder were more gradual. The duration varied from seconds to hours (median/range: 30 min/1-240 min), and 21 (41%) were both paroxysmal and brief (lancinating pain). Fifteen (29%) of the pains were related to the fixed opioid dose, occurring solely at the end of the dosing interval. Twenty-eight (55%) of the pains were precipitated; of these, 22 were caused by an action of the patient (incident pain), and 6 were associated with a non-volitional precipitant, such as flatulence. The pathophysiology of the pain was believed to be somatic in 17 (33%), visceral in 10 (20%), neuropathic in 14 (27%), and mixed in 10 (20%). Pain was related to the tumor in 42 (82%), the effects of therapy in 7 (14%), and neither in 2 (4%). Diverse interventions were employed to manage these pains, with variable efficacy. These data clarify the spectrum of breakthrough pains and indicate their importance in cancer pain management.
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            Breakthrough pain: characteristics and impact in patients with cancer pain.

            Few surveys have been performed to define the characteristics and impact of breakthrough pain in the cancer population. In this cross-sectional survey of inpatients with cancer, patients responded to a structured interview (the Breakthrough Pain Questionnaire) designed to characterize breakthrough pain, and also completed measures of pain and mood (Memorial Pain Assessment Card (MPAC)), pain-related interference in function (Brief Pain Inventory (BPI)), depressed mood (Beck Depression Inventory (BDI)), and anxiety (Beck Anxiety Inventory (BAI)). Of 178 eligible patients, 164 (92.2%) met the criteria for controlled background pain. The median age was 50.6 years (range 26 to 77 years), 52% were men, and 80.6% were Caucasian. Tumor diagnoses were mixed, 75% had metastatic disease, 65% had pain caused directly by the neoplasm, and a majority had mixed nociceptive-neuropathic pain. The median Karnofsky Performance Status score was 60 (range 40 to 90). Eighty-four (51.2%) patients had experienced breakthrough pain during the previous day. The median number of episodes was six (range 1 to 60) and the median interval from onset to peak was 3 min (range 1 s to 30 min). Although almost two-thirds (61.7%) could identify precipitants (movement 20.4%; end-of-dose failure 13.2%), pain was unpredictable in a large majority (78.2%). Patients with breakthrough pain had more intense (P < 0.001) and more frequent (P < 0.01) background pain than patients without breakthrough pain. Breakthrough pain was also associated with greater pain-related functional impairment (difference in mean BPI. P < 0.001), worse mood (mood VAS, P < 0.05; BDI, P < 0.001), and more anxiety (BAI, P < 0.001). Multivariate analysis confirmed that breakthrough pain independently contributed to impaired functioning and psychological distress. These data confirm that cancer-related breakthrough pain is a prevalent and heterogeneous phenomenon. The presence of breakthrough pain is a marker of a generally more severe pain syndrome, and is associated with both pain-related functional impairment and psychological distress. The findings suggest the need for further studies of breakthrough pain and more effective therapeutic strategies.
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              Prevalence and characteristics of breakthrough pain in cancer patients admitted to a hospice.

              A prospective survey was undertaken to determine the prevalence and characteristics of breakthrough pain in cancer patients admitted to a hospice. Of 414 consecutive admissions, 33 patients were confused or too unwell to take part and 136 were pain-free. The remaining 245 reported 404 pains (range 1-5 per patient); of these patients, 218 (89%) had breakthrough pain and identified 361 pains (range 1-5 per patient). Breakthrough pain was classified as somatic (46%) visceral (30%), neuropathic (10%) or mixed etiology (16%). Thirty-eight percent of pains were severe or excruciating. The average number of daily breakthrough pain episodes was 4 [corrected] (range 1-14); 49% occurred suddenly. Most (59%) were unpredictable, and 72% lasted less than 30 minutes. Seventy-five percent of patients were dissatisfied with their pain control. Breakthrough pain is common among patients admitted to our hospice. It is frequent, short lasting, often unpredictable and not necessarily related to chronic pain making treatment difficult.

                Author and article information

                J Pain Res
                J Pain Res
                Journal of Pain Research
                Dove Medical Press
                07 March 2014
                : 7
                : 117-123
                [1 ]Department of Pain Medicine, Palliative Care and Integrative Medicine, Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, USA
                [2 ]University of Minnesota Medical School, Minneapolis, MN, USA
                Author notes
                Correspondence: Stefan J Friedrichsdorf, Department of Pain Medicine, Palliative Care and Integrative Medicine, Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, 2525 Chicago Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55404, USA, Tel +1 612 813 6450, Fax +1 612 813 7199, Email stefan.friedrichsdorf@ 123456childrensmn.org
                © 2014 Friedrichsdorf and Postier. This work is published by Dove Medical Press Limited, and licensed under Creative Commons Attribution – Non Commercial (unported, v3.0) License

                The full terms of the License are available at http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/. Non-commercial uses of the work are permitted without any further permission from Dove Medical Press Limited, provided the work is properly attributed.



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