Background: Findings on the short- and long-term effectiveness of intensive interdisciplinary pain treatment (IIPT) for children with severe chronic functional pain are promising. However, a definitive appraisal of long-term effectiveness cannot be made due to a lack of comparison groups. The aim of the present study was to compare the health status of former patients with the health status of an age- and sex-matched comparison group from the community.
Methods: Data from two samples, a clinical sample of former patients (n = 162; aged 14 to 26) and an age- and sex-matched community sample (n = 162), were analysed. Former patients provided data 7 years after IIPT. Pain characteristics, physical and mental health status, autonomy, coping and health care utilisation were compared between the two samples.
Results: Seven years after treatment, the majority (58%) of the clinical sample were completely pain-free. Compared to the community sample, the clinical sample demonstrated worse physical and mental health and continued to seek more frequent health care, irrespective of whether or not they experienced ongoing chronic pain. However, the clinical sample reported better coping strategies and a comparable level of autonomy.
Conclusion: Patients experiencing severe chronic pain in childhood who engage in IIPT are likely to have recovered from their pain in early adulthood. Long-term treatment effects may manifest in better coping strategies. However, reduced mental and physical health status may indicate a negative long-term effect of early chronic pain experiences or a general vulnerability in people developing a chronic pain condition in childhood.
Significance: The majority of severely impaired paediatric chronic pain patients no longer suffer from chronic pain seven years after intensive interdisciplinary pain treatment. However, former patients have worse physical and mental health status than a community sample, and continue to seek out more frequent health care utilisation, irrespective of whether or not they continue to experience chronic pain. Therefore, potential negative long-term effects of childhood chronic pain experiences need specific attention early on.
© 2021 The Authors. European Journal of Pain published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of European Pain Federation - EFIC®.