At Gillette, we understand the importance of addressing pain in people who have disabilities and complex medical conditions. Pain and comfort research focuses on providing better outcomes, relief and improved patient experiences.

  • Medical Champion: Scott Schwantes, MD
  • Clinical Scientists: Chantel Barney, PhD, and John Belew, RN, PhD
  • University of Minnesota Partner: Frank Symons, PhD
  • Clinical Research Coordinator: Rachel Katoch

Characterizing Pain Experience and Somatosensory Function in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities

Many people who have intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDDs) can’t communicate or express pain in typical ways, making it difficult for care providers to recognize and interpret patients’ experiences. People who have IDDs often have other chronic health conditions and undergo procedures that are likely to cause pain. This means they’re at risk for experiencing undetected or undertreated pain.

To manage pain more effectively in people who have IDDs, our research focuses on deciphering pain and pinpointing somatosensory pathways (the sensory system that triggers pain in the body). This involves finding new, noninvasive ways to document pain experience, pain expression, and somatosensory function in people who have IDDs.

Select Ongoing Studies:

  • Patrick Rivard, RN: Prospective Exploration of Pain and Somatosensory Disturbance Among Individuals With Cerebral Palsy or Neuromuscular Conditions in the Context of Orthopedic Surgery.
  • Scott Schwantes, MD: A Study of the Effects of Gabapentin on Chronic Irritability in Neurologically Impaired Children.
  • Frank Symons, PhD: Intrathecal Baclofen and Pain Outcomes in Cerebral Palsy.
  • Chantel Barney, PhD: Comparing Cutaneous Sensory Reactivity Between Children With and Without Global Developmental Delay.
  • Frank Symons, PhD: Characterizing Inflammatory Mediators in the Saliva and Cerebral Spinal Fluid of Children and Adolescents With Cerebral Palsy.

Procedural Pain Management Research

Sometimes the procedures and surgeries that lead to improved long-term outcomes for our patients cause unavoidable short-term pain during recovery. To provide the best possible outcomes for patients, our research focuses on measuring pain and on the effectiveness of associated treatments. We focus on short and long-term pain, documenting methods for relieving pain after surgery and assessing associated surgical outcomes. The results of these studies help improve patient experiences and inform our clinical practice guidelines.

Select Ongoing Studies:

  • Scott Schwantes, MD: An Investigation of Postoperative Pain Management Following Orthopedic Surgery.

Recent Publications

  • Barney, C. C. (2015). Reduced pain threshold documented in children with down syndrome. Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology, 57(11), 988-989. doi:10.1111/dmcn.12845 [doi]
  • Barney, C. C., Hoch, J., Byiers, B., Dimian, A., & Symons, F. J. (2015). A case-controlled investigation of pain experience and sensory function in neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis. The Clinical Journal of Pain, 31(11), 998-1003. doi:10.1097/AJP.0000000000000192 [doi]
  • Symons, F. J., Tervo, R. C., Barney, C. C., Damerow, J., Selim, M., McAdams, B., . . . Kennedy, W. (2015). Peripheral innervation in children with global developmental delay: Biomarker for risk for self-injurious behavior? Journal of Child Neurology, 30(13), 1722-1727. doi:10.1177/0883073815579704 [doi]
  • Symons FJ, ElGhazi I, Reilly BG, Barney CC, Hanson L, Panoskaltsis-Mortari A, Armitage IM, Wilcox GL. (2015) Can Biomarkers Differentiate Pain and No Pain Subgroups of Nonverbal Children with Cerebral Palsy? A Preliminary Investigation Based on Noninvasive Saliva Sampling. Pain Medicine (Malden, Mass.), 16(2), 249-256. doi:10.1111/pme.12545 [doi]
  • Schwantes S, O’Brien HW. Pediatric palliative care for children with complex chronic medical conditions. Pediatr Clin North Am. 2014 Aug;61(4):797-821. PMID: 25084725.
  • Barney CC, Krach LE, Rivard PF, Belew JL, Symons FJ. Motor function predicts parent-reported musculoskeletal pain in children with cerebral palsy. Pain Res Manag. 2013 Nov-Dec;18(6):323-7. PMID: 24308022
  • Belew, J., Barney. C.C., Schwantes, S., Tibboel, D., Valkenburg, A.J., & Symons, F.J. (2013). Pain in children with intellectual or developmental disabilities. In P.J. McGrath, B.J. Stevens, S.M. Walker & W.T. Zempsky (Eds.), Oxford Textbook of Paediatric Pain. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Parker J, Belew JL. Qualitative evaluation of a pain intensity screen for children with severe neurodevelopmental disabilities. Pain Manag Nurs. 2013 Dec;14(4):e115-23. PMID: 24315263