First of its kind pediatric rehabilitation center offers hope to chronic pain sufferers

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Erin McColgan
Children’s Hospital Boston

First of its kind pediatric rehabilitation center offers hope
to chronic pain sufferers

On May 19, 2008, the Mayo Family Pediatric Pain Rehabilitation Center (PPRC) will open at Children’s Hospital Boston at Waltham. The PPRC will be the most comprehensive stand-alone day hospital program of its kind in the United States, to treat children and adolescents with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS). CRPS is a chronic neurological syndrome that affects skin, muscles, joints and bones, and causes severe burning, aching pain and excessive sweating and swelling of extremities. The syndrome is more prevalent in patients who play sports and affects girls eight times more frequently than boys.

Often times misdiagnosed, patients with CRPS have typically seen three to four specialists before they end up at the Chronic Pain Management Clinic at Children’s, a multidisciplinary program which provides treatment and support for acute and chronic pain problems in children and young adults.

“Many children and adolescents afflicted with CRPS improve with standard outpatient care, but a slight percentage may require intensive daily treatment to get well,” said Charles Berde, MD, PhD, Chief of Pain Medicine at Children’s Hospital, and Executive Director of the PPRC. “This new center will provide an intensive daily program that has proven successful in relief of debilitating extreme pain. With the treatment received at PPRC, patients can expect to resume normal function and will regain the physical strength and endurance necessary to enjoy life again.”

Berde, together with Navil Sethna, MB, ChB, and Bruce Masek, PhD, started the Chronic Pain Management Clinic at Children’s in 1986 and have treated more than 750 children suffering from CRPS—both inpatient and outpatient. Today, with the increased number of patients experiencing chronic pain, specifically CRPS, the need for a specialized clinic became highly evident and Dr. Berde, along with his colleagues, has worked tirelessly to provide patients with the expert care required to ease their pain.

The treatment for CRPS is intensive and requires six weeks of day hospitalization; however, the innovative program at Waltham is designed to save thousands of dollars in overnight stays and unneeded tests. Upon evaluation via telephone and onsite at the outpatient clinic, and after exhausting all other treatment options, eligible CRPS patients from around the country are expected to benefit from the comprehensive day program.

The 2,500-square-foot PPRC is located on the ground floor of the Waltham campus and includes two bio-behavioral therapy rooms, two private physical therapy rooms, a physician consult room, a functional training area and a therapeutic pool with shower and changing area. In addition to those treatment-focused areas, the PPRC is also equipped with a conference room, an activity room for participants, two handicap accessible bathrooms and an administrative front office.

The PPRC team is made up of a number of talented anesthesiologists, neurologists, psychologists, physical therapists, occupational therapists and child life specialists – all critical to the care of PPRC patients.

CRPS usually develops in an injured limb, such as a broken leg. However, many cases of CRPS involve only a minor injury, such as a sprain, and in some cases, no precipitating event can be identified. Tell-tale symptoms of CRPS include continuing pain, extreme sensitivity to touch, evidence of swelling, changes in skin blood flow (skin color changes, skin temperature changes) or abnormal sweating in the region of the pain.

Many modalities may be used for treatment, including medication, physical movement therapies, cognitive behavioral therapies, and sometimes sympathectomy or spinal cord stimulators or pumps. Additionally, physical movement and weight-bearing are critical factors in CRPS rehab, not only to keep limbs from atrophy, but also because it is thought that exercise helps to quiet the small nerve fibers on a molecular level.

Beginning May 19th, the Mayo Family Pediatric Pain Rehabilitation Center will be open Monday through Friday, 8am to 4:30pm. For additional information and details on how to enroll in the program, please visit

Children’s Hospital Boston is home to the world’s largest research enterprise based at a pediatric medical center, where its discoveries have benefited both children and adults since 1869. More than 500 scientists, including eight members of the National Academy of Sciences, 11 members of the Institute of Medicine and 12 members of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute comprise Children’s research community. Founded as a 20-bed hospital for children, Children’s Hospital Boston today is a 397-bed comprehensive center for pediatric and adolescent health care grounded in the values of excellence in patient care and sensitivity to the complex needs and diversity of children and families. Children’s also is the primary pediatric teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School. For more information about the hospital and its research visit:

April 15, 2008



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