Background: Chronic pain patients require continuity of care even during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has drastically changed healthcare and other societal practices. The American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians (ASIPP) has created the COVID-ASIPP Risk Mitigation & Stratification (COVID-ARMS) Return to Practice Task Force in order to provide guidance for safe and strategic reopening.
Objectives: The aims are to provide education and guidance for interventional pain specialists and their patients during the COVID-19 pandemic that minimizes COVID-related morbidity while allowing a return to interventional pain care.
Methods: The methodology utilized included the development of objectives and key questions with utilization of trustworthy standards, appropriate disclosures of conflicts of interest, as well as a panel of experts from various regions, specialities, and groups. The literature pertaining to all aspects of COVID-19, specifically related to epidemiology, risk factors, complications, morbidity and mortality, and literature related to risk mitigation and stratification were reviewed. The principles of best evidence synthesis of available literature and grading for recommendations as described by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) typically utilized in ASIPP guideline preparation was not utilized in these guidelines due to limitations because of their lack of available literature on COVID-19, risk mitigation and stratification. These guidelines are considered evidence -- informed with incorporation of best available research and practice knowledge. Consequently, these guidelines are considered evidence-informed with incorporation of best available research and practice knowledge.
Results: Numerous risk factors have emerged that predispose patients to contracting COVID-19 and/or having a more severe course of the infection. COVID-19 may have mild symptoms, even be asymptomatic, or may be severe and life threatening. Older age and certain comorbidities, such as underlying pulmonary or cardiovascular disease, have been associated with worse outcomes. In pain care, COVID-19 patients are a heterogeneous group with some individuals relatively healthy and having only a short course of manageable symptoms while others become critically ill. It is necessary to assess patients on a case-by-case basis and craft individualized care recommendations. A COVID-ARMS risk stratification tool was created to quickly and objectively assess patients. Interventional pain specialists and their patients may derive important benefits from evidence-informed risk stratification, protective strategies to prevent infection, and the gradual resumption of treatments and procedures to manage pain.
Limitations: COVID-19 was an ongoing pandemic at the time during which these recommendations were developed. The pandemic has created a fluid situation in terms of evidence-informed guidance. As more and better evidence is gathered, these recommendations may be modified.
Conclusions: Chronic pain patients require continuity of care but during the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, steps must be taken to stratify risks and protect patients from possible infection to safeguard them from COVID-19-related illness and transmitting the disease to others. Pain specialists should optimize telemedicine encounters with their pain patients, be cognizant of risks of COVID-19 morbidity, and take steps to evaluate risk-benefit on a case-by-case basis. Pain specialists may return to practice with lower-risk patients and appropriate safeguards.
Keywords: COVID 19; COVID risk factors; Cardiovascular disease; SARS nCoV2; diabetes; hypertension; interventional pain care; interventional pain management; novel coronavirus; obesity; steroids.