Neuropathic Pain Among Community-Dwelling Older People: A Clinical Study in Finland

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Abstract

Background

Neuropathic pain is more common among older people than in the general population, and the efficacy of medical treatment often remains unsatisfactory.

Objective

The aim of this study was to assess the presence, diagnostic certainty, etiology and treatment of neuropathic pain in community-dwelling older people with chronic pain.

Methods

Independently living older people aged 75, 80 and 85 years subject to communal preventive home visits with chronic pain were invited to a clinical pain examination by a geriatrician.

Results

Overall, 106 patients consented to participate in the clinical study. Neuropathic pain was diagnosed in 51 (48 %) patients, with 75 % of pain states definite and 25 % probable neuropathic pain. The most common etiology was degenerative disease of the spinal column causing radiculopathy. At the study visit, 11 patients (22 % of neuropathic pain patients) were receiving medication that was demonstrated to be effective against neuropathic pain. The geriatrician recommended a trial of a new medicine for 17 patients, but only six continued the medication going forward.

Conclusions

Neuropathic pain was surprisingly common in our cohort. Finding effective pain medication is challenging due to comorbidities, possible side effects, and vulnerability in older age. Other pain management methods should be considered.

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