Hoffman JM, Curran M, Barber J, et al. Collaborative Care for Chronic Pain After Traumatic Brain Injury: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Netw Open. 2024 Jun 3;7(6):e2413459. doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2024.13459. (Original study)

IMPORTANCE: Chronic pain after traumatic brain injury (TBI) is prevalent and associated with poor outcomes. By providing multidisciplinary care through expert consultation, a collaborative care (CC) treatment approach may reduce pain interference.

OBJECTIVE: To compare CC with usual care (UC) in decreasing pain interference.

DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS: This randomized clinical trial was conducted from July 2018 through April 2021 at 2 hospital-based academic rehabilitation medicine clinics in Seattle, Washington. Participants included adults with mild-to-severe TBI (at least 6 months before enrollment) and chronic pain. Data analysis was performed from March 30, 2022, to August 30, 2023.

INTERVENTION: The CC intervention (called TBI Care) included up to 12 in-person or telephone visits over 16 weeks with a care manager (CM) who provided person-centered cognitive behavioral treatment. The CM met weekly with members of the expert team to review participants and discuss recommendations to optimize treatment.

MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES: The primary outcome was pain interference on the Brief Pain Inventory at treatment conclusion (4 months after randomization). Secondary outcomes included pain interference at 8 months; pain severity; symptoms of depression, anxiety, and sleep disturbance; pain-related emergency department visits; community participation; and participant satisfaction. Linear mixed-effects regression was used for analysis.

RESULTS: A total of 1379 individuals were screened for eligibility, and 158 were randomized (79 to CC and 79 to UC). The participants were mostly women (92 participants [58%]) with a mean (SD) age of 46.8 (13.2) years and a mean (SD) of 15.3 (3.0) years of education. TBI occurred a mean (SD) of 4.0 (5.9) years (median [IQR], 1.9 [0.8-4.5] years) before enrollment. All TBI severities were included, and of 149 participants for whom TBI severity was known, the majority (97 participants [65%]) had mild TBI. In the CC group, 71 participants (90%) completed at least 11 sessions, and, at 4 months, this group had significantly lower pain interference scores compared with the UC group (mean [SD], 3.46 [2.17] vs 5.03 [2.28]). This difference was maintained at 8 months after randomization, with mean (SD) TBI care pain interference scores of 3.61 (2.22) for CC vs 4.68 (2.51) for UC. At 4 months, there was significantly lower pain severity in the CC group vs UC group (mean [SD] score, 3.63 [1.95] vs 4.90 [1.96]), as well as symptoms of depression (mean [SD] score, 8.07 [5.34] vs 11.31 [6.37]) and anxiety (mean [SD], 6.20 [5.17] vs 9.58 [6.00]). Satisfaction with pain treatment (mean [SD] score, 2.99 [1.23] vs 2.52 [1.25]), clinical care (mean [SD] score, 3.28 [1.00] vs 2.84 [1.26]), and overall health care (mean [SD] score, 3.25 [0.88] vs 2.82 [1.00]) were significantly higher in the CC group vs the UC group; global impression of change was significantly lower in the CC group vs the UC group (mean [SD] score, 2.74 [1.02] vs 3.47 [1.26]) (lower scores denote a better impression of change).

CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE: In this randomized clinical trial of CC compared with UC for patients with TBI, CC was effective at reducing pain interference and was sustained at 8-month follow-up. Further research is needed to examine the implementation and cost-effectiveness of CC for TBI in other health care settings.

TRIAL REGISTRATION: Identifier: NCT03523923.

Discipline Area Score
Rehab Clinician (OT/PT) 6 / 7
Physician 5 / 7
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Comments from MORE raters

Physician rater

Very interesting study given the frequency of the problem and the positive results. The cost-effectiveness must be carefully evaluated.

Rehab Clinician (OT/PT) rater

The meaning of the research is clear in that collaborative care is a promising intervention for the treatment of chronic pain, including headache, for individuals with TBI.
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