Research suggests that 30 to 40 percent of children and teens complain of pain that occurs at least once per week. Every year, the clinicians in the Pain Treatment Center at Boston Children's Hospital care for more than 2,000 children of all ages who have pain from a wide range of medical conditions. Children with cancer, sickle cell disease, hemophilia, AIDS, cystic fibrosis, and other medical diseases form a challenging but rewarding group of patients. Learn more about the different types of pain we treat.
Founded in 1986, the Pain Treatment Center — a division of the Department of Anesthesiology, Critical Care & Pain Medicine — was the first multidisciplinary program in the world to provide treatment and support for acute and chronic pain in children and young adults. It is the most clinically active program of its kind in the world.
Our approach to pain
We embrace a state-of-the-art team approach to pain management that encourages children and families as active players in their own care. Patients seen by the Pain Treatment Center receive care from anesthesiologists, neurologists, and pediatricians, in addition to evaluation by a psychologist who specializes in pain management through cognitive behavioral therapy and a physical therapist.
On our Inpatient Pain Service, about half of our patients receive patient-controlled analgesia (a method of administering analgesia through a pump activated by the patient), while another quarter receives regional analgesia (in which pain medications are injected through a tube or catheter embedded in the lower back or near a nerve). The remainder receives a variety of treatments tailored to their individual needs.
Our areas of innovation
In 1991, the Pain Treatment Center conducted the world's first randomized trial of patient-controlled analgesia in pediatrics. Children and adolescents who were allowed to control their own dosage of analgesia after major orthopedic surgery expressed less pain and greater satisfaction than patients receiving morphine administered intramuscularly. They were less sedated, as well. This groundbreaking trial paved the way for today's frequent use of patient-controlled analgesia worldwide.
Since then, the researchers and clinicians in the Pain Treatment Center have continued to drive the study and treatment of pain in children and adolescents. For example, we conducted the first preclinical and Phase 1 trials of neosaxitoxin, the first new pediatric local anesthetic in more than 60 years. Our investigators are also actively studying the effects of opioids and other analgesics in infants and children and researching the genetic underpinnings of different forms of chronic pain.
Types of pain
Learn about the types of pain we treat in the Pain Treatment Center.
Is your child having a needle procedure (such as vaccinations, blood work, or an injection)? Consider using numbing medicine. There are several ways to obtain this:
- Ask your nurses or doctors about using numbing medicine during your visit.
- Purchase over-the-counter LMX-4® (Lidocaine 4%) from online retailers (Walgreens.com, Walmart.com, CVS.com) or local pharmacy. Call ahead to make sure they have it in stock. Once applied, it takes 30 minutes to work.
- Available with a prescription and covered by most insurances: EMLA® (for children 3 years and older) is available at the BCH Pharmacy. Takes one to three hours to work.
For how to apply this medication, read our family education sheet.
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