A team of UF Health researchers has received a $2.5 million federal grant to conduct a five-year study tracking information on postsurgical pain in hundreds of patients.
Dr. Patrick Tighe, an assistant professor of anesthesiology at the UF College of Medicine, is the lead researcher on the study. He explained that the study will try to determine what genetic, chemical, psychological or social factors might play a role in some patients’ pain dissipating within a week after surgery, while the pain in others does not taper off and, in some cases, becomes chronic.
Funded by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, the study will include up to 500 patients who have a procedure at a UF Health-associated facility and track their pain — including fluctuations during the course of a single day — for the first seven days after surgery and again six months later.
Tighe said the pain would be measured by criteria including patients’ answers to the McGill Pain Questionnaire — which provides information on the type, severity and length of bouts of pain — the amount of pain medication patients are taking and an evaluation of their condition by a medical professional.
“Unfortunately, there is no magic wand we have to measure how much pain a patient is in,” Tighe said. “There is a general consensus that there are limits to how we can judge how much pain someone is in.”
He said researchers would take blood samples from patients before surgery to see if any specific genetic markers or chemicals in the blood could be linked to longer or chronic bouts of postsurgical pain.
Chronic pain carries costs of $600 billion a year in medical treatments and lost productivity, according to a 2011 report from the Institute of Medicine. Tighe said the UF researchers hope their study will find root causes of chronic postsurgical pain and, as a result, lead to effective ways to limit and treat it.
A 2006 study on the National Institutes of Health website said that acute postoperative pain turns to persistent pain for 10 to 50 percent of patients after such common operations as groin hernia repair, breast and thoracic surgery, leg amputation, and coronary artery bypass surgery.
“Persistent postsurgical pain represents a major, largely unrecognized clinical problem,” that study stated.
The UF researchers expect to start recruiting patients later this summer, and the study will cover a wide variety of surgeries, Tighe said.
The research team also includes Roger Fillingim, a professor in the College of Dentistry and director of the UF Pain Research and Intervention Center of Excellence; Parisa Rashidi, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering in the College of Engineering; Margaret Wallace, a professor of molecular genetics and microbiology in the UF College of Medicine; and Baiming Zou, an assistant professor of biostatistics in the UF colleges of Medicine and Public Health and Health Professions, according to a UF Health release.
The grant funding will primarily go to covering the salaries of the researchers for the time they spend on the study and the tuition of multiple graduate research assistants who will also be part of the study, according to the grant application.
By Christopher Curry
Gainesville Sun staff writer