Dr Suellen Walker, Academic Paediatric Pain Anesthetist at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) is confronted with children in distressing pain on a daily basis. Some children are aching from surgery or chemotherapy, whilst others are in agony from chronic pain. With this glaring reality, Dr Walker and her team are conducting critical research into pain in children, specifically neuropathic pain in children of different ages.
With the majority of the current research available based on pain in adults, new research into pain in children is critical. Children respond differently to pain especially as they grow, and many will continue to suffer until specific reasons behind their pain are found. In the past, research into pain in children has been underfinanced because charitable funding is normally directed to specific conditions whereas specialists such as Dr Walker see children with an array of different conditions. However, through the recent Give to GOSH appeal, Dr Walker and her team are being funded to conduct important research into neuropathic pain in children of different ages.
Neuropathic pain is caused by damage within the nervous system and is believed to be one of the most difficult types of pain to control. It is often experienced by children with complex diseases, such as those cared for by Dr Walker. Dr Walker is working closely with the Louis Dundas Centre(LDC) for Children’s Palliative Care to understand this distressing pain often experienced by children with life-threatening conditions.
Sonay Mustafa, mother of Kader Mustafa, clearly remembers the pain her daughter experienced “Kader was sometimes in a lot of pain and I would feel so helpless. There’s this terrible sense of guilt that you’re not helping your child enough, that you can’t take their pain away.” Kader was cared for by the LDC before she passed away at the age of six, but the memories of the pain she suffered have stayed with mother Sonay.
Dr Walker and his research team will be working hard to bring relief to many children like Kader. They will be investigating the mechanisms underlying neuropathic pain to better understand why nerves send spontaneous pain signals. Research will be conducted at UCL Institute of Child Health to examine how nerve fibres involved in pain signaling are affected by disease. Sensory testing will also be conducting at the wards at GOSH to assess the children’s pain so they can be made as comfortable as possible by the staff at the hospital. “The sensory testing will involve using specialized equipment to measure responses to stimuli, such as touch, pressure and temperature, which tell us about the function and sensitivity of the small nerve fibres, and whether the treatment is working,” said Dr Walker. To read the full article, click here.