Scale Sorts Orofacial Pain Patients for Faster Treatment

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Persistent orofacial pain, which is defined as pain in the face that lasts more than 3 months, affects about 7% of the population in the United Kingdom. Yet these patients often need to see different medical and dental practitioners during an average timeframe of 6 months at a cost of £642 (about $846) before they get effective treatment.

More rapid care, then, could relieve their suffering sooner and save the National Health Service millions, according to Newcastle University. This alleviation would begin by screening patients with a well-established chronic pain scale to ensure those most severely affected immediately receive specialist care.

The university interviewed 198 patients who also completed the graded chronic pain scale (GCPS) questionnaire to measure what treatment that they had received in the previous 6 months. Patients who ranked “high” on the GCPS were considered to have significant pain-related disability and needed more care.

These high-ranking patients should be referred to a specialist in a central hub for care, according the researchers. Patients who have low levels of disability based on their questionnaire results would be seen and treated by a range of healthcare professionals in regional clinics.

“It is likely that this hub-and-spoke model would be more efficient and effective for patients but can only work if there is investment and enough experts are recruited,” said Justin Durham, PhD, senior lecturer and National Institute for Health Research clinician scientist at Newcastle University.

“Ultimately, it is likely this model would provide faster, more effective treatment for patients but at a lower cost,” Durham said.

The study, “Healthcare Cost and Impact of Persistent Orofacial Pain,” was published in the Journal of Dental Research.

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