The treatment of pain produced during the management of burn injury has been an ongoing problem for physicians caring for these patients. The main therapeutic option for analgesia has been the repeated and prolonged use of opioids. The adverse effects of opioids are well known but the long term use of opioids which produces tolerance with accompanying dose escalation and dependence is most problematic. Another potentially important consequence of opioid exposure that sometimes masks as tolerance is that of opioid induced hyperalgesia. This syndrome is manifest as enhanced pain, sensitivity and loss of analgesic efficacy in patients treated with opioids who actually become sensitized to painful stimuli. This article focuses on the treatment of burn pain and how current analgesic therapies with opioids may cause hyperalgesia and affect the adequacy of treatment for burn pain. This article also provides possible modalities to help therapeutically manage these patients and considers future analgesic strategies which may help to improve pain management in this complicated patient population.
From the Loyola University Medical Center, Loyola University Stritch School of Medicine, Maywood, Illinois
The authors declare no conflict of interest.
Address correspondence to W. Scott Jellish, MD, PhD, 2160 S First Avenue, Maywood, IL 60153.