The Catalyst Issue 16 | April 2013 - Page 22

the daily struggle, beyond coping with physical pain, likely includes juggling medical appointments and trying to continue participating in the activities of normal living. It all takes a toll on patients and families. Symptoms and limitations arising from pain can create a new set of issues that need attention, such as a test of one’s religious faith in light of a medical reality, or a communication breakdown between a patient’s family and the care team. This kind of support is an integral part of patient care at Scott & White, and it speaks to the healthcare system’s overall philosophy of offering patients complete care through a multidisciplinary approach. “Many patients struggle with debilitating pain, and need to be able to function and return to their normal lives,” says Christopher J. Burnett, MD, division head of the Pain Management Clinic. Dr. Burnett treats patients who suffer from low back pain, one of the most common reasons for doctors visits. He and his team offer innovative therapies to alleviate pain, such as spinal cord stimulators and a technique called kyphoplasty, a procedure to reduce back pain. The team also recognizes the importance of helping patients maintain quality of life, in spite of their pain. “A patient’s needs can be as simple as just wanting to play with their kids, or to do the laundry and cook meals without pain. It’s important to collaborate with specialists in other areas of care so patients’ overall needs are met,” says Dr. Burnett. 20 The Catalyst April 13 | Patients are grateful when a treatment has worked to alleviate chronic back pain. “I have had patients hug me when I walk into the room after performing a spinal cord stimulator trial or vertebroplasty to treat their pain. These are truly rewarding patient encounters,” he says. Dr. Burnett will consult with a neuropsychologist if a patient is battling depression, in an effort to treat the totality of the person’s symptoms. Dr. Burnett explains that it can be difficult to know whether “It’s important to collaborate with specialists in other areas of care so patients’ overall needs are met.” —Christopher J. Burnett, MD the physical pain caused the depression or vice versa. “What we do know is that we don’t want to keep increasing medications, and repeating the same cycle,” he says. He acknowledges that some patients will experience pain throughout their lives. “We need to be there for them,” he says. Because these services are so vital, Scott & White has expanded access to pain management strategies. As patients’ needs increase, they can take comfort knowing that Scott & White pain management services are available in and near their communities, including Temple, Round Rock, College Station, Killeen, and Marble Falls. Palliative care and a personalized approach Dr. Burnett directs a new pain management fellowship program at Scott & White, and medical residents in the program rotate through a service called palliative care. The goal of palliative care medicine is to help patients be more comfortable while living with chronic pain. Palliative care services can help treat non-physical discomfort, such as emotional pain, and treat these symptoms accordingly. Palliative care physicians are specialists who are highly skilled in non-invasive pain management. For patients with chronic and other pain, these physicians add a new perspective to the traditional treatment plan by exploring symptoms such as psychosocial and spiritual isolation, and offering ways to help. Palliative care is different from hospice, or end-of-life, care. Ideally, palliative care services would be introduced in a patient’s care plan as early as possible, to help alleviate symptoms that contribute to overall discomfort, but they are integrated at any point. Palliative care team members work alongside the patient’s primary and specialty care clinicians. While palliative care is a relatively new field of medicine, its effectiveness is undeniable.