Pain Intervention: It's a Big Tent

Pain management is part of the pratice in many medical specialities, but it is also a specialty in itself. Groups like the American Society of Interventional Pain Specialists are seeing membership growth--partly because of the need to become more effective advocates.

Most medical specialties focus on a single disease, ailment, or organ system. What’s unique about the specialty of interventional pain management is that it is devoted to a symptom.

Helping patients get respite from pain has become ever more complex—and successful.

For that reason, the American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians’ (ASIPP) 4,300 members represent not just anesthesiology but radiology, rehabilitative medicine, and surgery, said ASIPP’s past president Ramsin Benyamin, MD.

Attendance at its annual meeting has more than doubled in the past 3 years, with more than 800 attending its April conference in Orlando, FL.

The categories of exhibitors sponsoring the event has also grown to include surgical device companies, pharma companies selling opioids, manufacturers of drug-testing systems, makers of imaging machines, vendors of blood and stem cell products, and other diagnostics.

“We do everything,” said Hans Hansen, MD, a past president of ASIPP. That includes issuing evidence-based treatment guidelines, such as recommendations on opioid use for pain.

The group’s most important goal is advocacy, Hansen said, and he points to lobbying efforts that have paid off in several ways such as ASIPP’s role in 2014 in getting the US Food and Drug Administration to back off on a threatened warning it wanted to issue on epidural steroid injections for treatment of back pain. Several other medical societies also opposed the FDA proposal.

Additonally, national health care reform is hurting many of the group’s members, with cuts in reimbursements to office-based procedures.

Benyamin said he is optimistic that the field will survive these changes.

“We are capable of being the gate-keeper” in saving patients and payers from higher costs of procedures unnecessarily done in hospitals vs. smaller group practices, or individual practices, he said.

“A lot of hospitals are now realizing these services do not belong in the hospital,” Hansen added.