Guest Post from Deborah L. Benzil, MD, FACS, FAANS
Chair, AANS/CNS Communications and Public Relations Committee
Mount Kismo Medical Group
Columbia University Medical Center
Mt Kisco, New York
Having a career as a neurosurgeon is incredibly rewarding. Perhaps even more gratifying is being a part of such a remarkable community. While neurosurgeons represent only one percent of the nation’s physicians, our impact on patients and their loved ones is disproportionately large. In the arena of pain, Neurosurgery Blog’s focus on pain is just one poignant example. For more than a century, neurosurgeons have played a pivotal role in defining and understanding the science of pain. My subspecialty is continuing to contribute to determining the etiology of the leading cause of disabling pain (neck and back pain), developing innovative surgical interventions for these conditions, as well as highly effective surgical treatments for patients with chronic, intractable pain. You would have to have your head under an enormous rock not to know of America’s opioid crisis, but it’s important to point out that the pain crisis is so much more complicated than this cliché allows. The goal of our content during this pain focus has been to explore the nuances of this growing challenge. These include:
- Spotlight on Pain: Neurosurgeon’s Pivotal Contributions;
- The Nation’s Opioid Epidemic — Continued Advocacy Needed to Turn the Tide;
- Global Pain Initiative: Changing the Way People with Pain are Treated;
- AANS Neurosurgeon Spotlight: September 2017 – The Enemy of Human Happiness: Pain;
- Neurosurgeons and the Treatment of Trigeminal Neuralgia;
- How Repealing the Medical Device Tax Can Lessen the Pain;
- DRG Stimulation: Evidence-based Strategy for the Treatment of Severe Chronic Neuropathic Pain;
- Cross Post – CDC Launches Rx Awareness Campaign;
- DoD/VA Lead the Way in the Opioid Crisis; and
- The Rush to Limit Opioid Prescribing.
Neurosurgeons have unique and crucial information on this topic that the public needs to know. Furthermore, it’s important to tell all sides of the pain equation and what neurosurgeons experience on the frontlines treating pain, including:
- Someone who has died or suffered the ravages of opioid addiction;
- Numerous patients suffering acute or chronic pain from a neurosurgical condition (degenerative spine, brain and spine tumors, infections, peripheral nerve injuries);
- That narcotics can be essential for patients to achieve the desired quality outcomes in the post-operative setting;
- Alternative neurosurgical interventions derived through research and innovation are highly efficacious in treating many pain conditions; and
- Ongoing advocacy and appropriate policy to address the real and complex issues of pain, narcotics and addiction remain critically important.
Neurosurgery Blog will continue to tackle the difficult, but important, issues facing so many patients and their families. Shortly, we will turn our attention from pain into a laser focus month on spine. As the American population continues to age, spine issues will remain as a primary cause of pain and disability, which has a substantial economic impact on the country. As with pain, neurosurgeons are leading the way in addressing this critical topic.
“Of pain you could wish only one thing: that it should stop. Nothing in the world was so bad as physical pain. In the face of pain there are no heroes.” – George Orwell