Pain Management in Pediatric Burn Patients: Review of Recent Literature and Future Directions

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Childhood burns are a profoundly traumatic and painful experience. Despite recognition of the prevalence of burn injuries in children and the severity of the associated pain, burn pain remains undertreated. At the same time, more evidence is emerging to suggest that undertreated pain has serious long-term medical and psychiatric consequences, many of which can be ameliorated with improved pain control. Pain in burn patients is, however, notoriously difficult to treat, perhaps because there is a chronic pain aspect underlying the acute pain that accompanies wound care and procedures. This difficulty is compounded by the fact that there are little data to guide decision making in these patients. This article aims to identify the best strategies to guide clinical practice through a review of the past 10 years’ development in pediatric burn pain management. However, because clinical investigations remain limited in burned children, we also aim to draw attention to those areas where the data do not identify an optimal approach and further work is needed. Overall, in addition to just the traditional pharmacological approaches to pain, such as acetaminophen, benzodiazepines, and opioids, there is growing evidence to support more widespread use of regional anesthesia and novel technologies such as virtual reality. Starting with an improved understanding of the current state of the literature, we can identify areas of research and important questions whose answers will ultimately improve care and reduce suffering for this unfortunate population of children.

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