Pain in Intellectually Disabled Children: Towards Evidence-Based Pharmacotherapy?

Bram Valkenburg, Tom de Leeuw, M van Dijk, Dick Tibboel

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This critical opinion article deals with the challenges of finding the most effective pharmacotherapeutic options for the management of pain in intellectually disabled children and provides recommendations for clinical practice and research. Intellectual disability can be caused by a wide variety of underlying diseases and may be associated with congenital anomalies such as cardiac defects, small-bowel obstructions or limb abnormalities as well as with comorbidities such as scoliosis, gastro-esophageal reflux disease, spasticity, and epilepsy. These conditions themselves or any necessary surgical interventions are sources of pain. Epilepsy often requires chronic pharmacological treatment with antiepileptic drugs. These antiepileptic drugs can potentially cause drug-drug interactions with analgesic drugs. It is unfortunate that children with intellectual disabilities often cannot communicate pain to caregivers. Although these children are at high risk of experiencing pain, researchers nevertheless often have to exclude them from trials on pain management because of ethical considerations. We therefore make a plea for prescribers, researchers, patient organizations, pharmaceutical companies, and policy makers to study evidence-based, safe and effective pharmacotherapy in these children through properly designed studies. In the meantime, parents and clinicians must resort to validated pain assessment tools such as the revised FLACC scale.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Pages (from-to)339-348
Number of pages10
JournalPaediatric Drugs
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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