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American Society for Action on Pain

UI - 000160

AU - Terman GW

AU - Loeser JD

TI - A case of opiate-insensitive pain: malignant treatment of benign pain

AB - OBJECTIVE: We report the case of a woman with presumed cancer pain treated with escalating

doses of opiates despite no evident improvement in her pain and several deleterious side effects. PATIENT:

A 62-year-old woman with cervical myelopathy and a diagnosis of a spinal cord tumor was referred to the

University of Washington Medical Center complaining of chest tightness, multiple joint pains, nausea,

constipation, seizures and a deteriorating memory. At the time of admission she was confined to her bed

with a full-time attendant and was receiving 240 milligrams of intravenous morphine per hour for her pain.

INTERVENTION: Diagnostic studies failed to find any evidence of neoplasm and revealed only an old hemorrhage within the cervical spinal cord. A program of increasing physical and occupational therapy and

decreasing opiate intake was initiated. RESULTS: Within a month the patient's pain complaints decreased,

as did the rest of her presenting complaints. Her activities of daily living greatly increased making attendant

care no longer necessary. CONCLUSIONS: This case report illustrates some of the hazards of opioid

therapy in the management of patients with chronic pain. Our patient's opiate therapy was expensive, gave

her undesirable side effects, and did not reduce her pain complaints or improve her function. In the treatment

of chronic pain, of noncancerous or cancerous origin, a) systemic opioids may not be effective in reducing

pain complaints in every patient, b) treatment efficacy evaluation should always include functional endpoints,

and c) nonefficacious treatments should not be continued indefinitely

SO - Clinical Journal of Pain 1992;8:255-25