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Revisiting the WHO Analgesic Ladder for Surgical Management of Pain.

AMA Journal of Ethics 2020 August 2
The opioid epidemic challenges current attitudes toward pain management and necessitates the reexamination of the World Health Organization (WHO) 3-step analgesic ladder, introduced in 1986 for cancer pain management. Surgical treatment of pain is a logical extension of the original guideline, which is often absent in conversations with patients about treatment options for their pain and consequentially underutilized. However, with concerns growing regarding opioid use, a shift in the stepwise approach of the WHO analgesic ladder in an age of developing technology and surgical offerings could have profound implications for patients and public health. Surgical interventions potentially provide a long-term, cost-effective management strategy to reduce opioid use. This review canvasses surgical options, highlights literature on failed back surgery syndrome and spinal cord stimulation and reconsiders the current ladder approach to pain management.

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