Children’s Hospital Los Angeles has received a gift of $1.92 million from the Carl F. Braun Trust to support a three-year research study to measure the impact of using integrative medicine practices to treat children suffering from acute/chronic pain, as well as children who need palliative care.

The project will study integrative medicine practices targeting pain management and palliative care, mood and sleep regulation, health-related quality of life, and health economics/utilization/cost, including medication reduction in outpatient and hospitalized pediatric patients. “There is an unmet need in pediatrics for complements to medications to control pain and discomfort in children, particularly for patients with chronic and palliative care needs,” says Jeffrey I. Gold, PhD, Director Emeritus and Founder of the Pediatric Pain Medicine Clinic at CHLA and the project’s principal investigator. “Medications work well for our acute care needs, but over time, these medications can cause side effects, including increased pain, as well as decreased effectiveness for children with long-term or chronic illnesses.”

“The Carl F. Braun Trust grant will help our team conduct rigorous research into the effectiveness and efficacy of these interventions,” says Dr. Gold, who is also Professor of Pediatrics, Anesthesiology and Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Keck School of Medicine of USC.

The grant will be used to build an evidence base of research to support non-medication treatment for pain. This will involve measuring the impact of integrative medicine practices, as well as teaching children techniques that can help them better manage discomfort. Dr. Gold’s group is also examining ways to improve pain management and the quality of life of children with terminal conditions.

The grant will support research in measuring the effectiveness of techniques such as acupuncture, yoga, biofeedback, mindfulness, and massage in mitigating pain and discomfort in children with a range of diseases.

The grant will also fund summer internships for undergraduates and two research postdoctoral psychology fellows in the biobehavioral pain lab. Currently the grant is supporting four summer interns, with plans to provide increased opportunities for students in the community next year.

According to Dr. Gold, different treatment combinations work for different individuals. “The proposed studies funded by the Carl F. Braun Trust will hopefully provide evidence-based outcomes, giving healthcare providers tools to use to manage pain and stress in their patients,” says Gold. He also says that it is important for healthcare providers to be able to offer parents alternatives based on well-validated research. “The benefits will be mental as well as physical, as the idea of integrative medicine is to treat the whole child,” Dr. Gold says. “This means caring for both mind and body.”

This research can have other benefits for young patients and their families aside from reducing reliance on medications for pain management. Children can use these newly acquired techniques to get a sense of self-efficacy over their pain. “This research will help determine if integrated practices can help children to feel more empowered,” Dr. Gold says. “Additionally, parents can access treatments to assist their children with managing their pain and distress and to help their children feel better.”

This initiative builds on prior work in the Divisions of Pain Medicine and Comfort Palliative Care, where Dr. Gold currently collaborates with clinicians to treat CHLA patients with acupuncture and biofeedback. However, the new grant will expand these integrative medicine practices to include yoga, massage, and mindfulness. The Gold laboratory has co-developed and investigated multiple interventions, such as virtual and augmented reality to comfort children during routine painful medical procedures to reduce their pain, anxiety, and overall distress. Investigating and establishing a scientific evidence base will expand the range of treatment tools available to providers.

“Children’s Hospital Los Angeles is at the leading edge of research into ways to mitigate pain and increase comfort in children,” says Dr. Gold. “This kind of fundamental research spans medical care in multiple areas of pediatrics—targeting pain and what NIH refers to as ‘whole person health.’ Very few medical centers are doing this kind of research for children. The primary question this research seeks to answer is if integrative medicine practices can improve kids’ lives. Compassionate donors like the Carl F. Braun Trust make innovation in these holistic interventions possible.”

[Source(s): Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, Newswise]