Pain Medicine Research

The Pain Treatment Service at Boston Children's Hospital was established in 1986 by Drs. Charles Berde, Navil Sethna, Bruce Masek, Claire McCarthy and their colleagues as the first multidisciplinary program in the world for pediatric acute and chronic pain management. Our program remains the most clinically active with one of the most extensive research programs of its kind in the world.

Investigations include the study of:

  • the clinical pharmacology of analgesics and local anesthetics in infants and children
  • autonomic regulation in infants undergoing anesthesia
  • complex Regional Pain Syndrome and other neuropathic conditions in children
  • the safety and efficacy of tricyclic antidepressants and other adjuvant medications for control of chronic pain
  • investigating how tachyphylaxis to local anesthetic agents occurs, and how it is altered in the developing nervous system.
  • development of local anesthetics that can provide prolonged analgesia for days or weeks following injection or implantation.
  • Investigation of overlapping pain conditions with collaboration with Rheumatology, Gastroenterology, Neurology and Cardiology Services
  • Fear of pain and the influence on brain function
  • School function in children with chronic pain
  • Psychological factors in the experience of pediatric pain
  • Outcomes of rehabilitative treatments for chronic pain in children

Among the innovations from our program over the past 22 years include the following firsts:

  • First multidisciplinary pediatric acute and chronic pain management program
  • First ACGME-accredited pediatric pain medicine fellowship
  • First randomized controlled trial of patient controlled analgesia (PCA) in pediatrics
  • First prospective controlled study of rehabilitative treatment of CRPS/RSD in pediatrics
  • First study of normal reference ranges for quantitative sensory testing (QST) in healthy children and adolescents
  • First study of sensory abnormalities in pediatric CRPS/RSD using QST
  • First study of cardiovascular autonomic regulation in pediatric CRPS/RSD
  • First study of brain imaging using fMRI in pediatric CRPS/RSD
  • First case series on patterns of opioid dose escalation in pediatric advanced cancer
  • First study of safety and recovery parameters for midazolam for sedation for pediatric oncology procedures
  • First case series on regional anesthesia for refractory pain in children with advanced cancer
  • First study of the safety of postoperative use of ketorolac in children
  • First study using transfer function analysis of heart rate variability to examine cardiovascular autonomic regulation in infants undergoing hernia repairs under spinal anesthesia First randomized controlled trial of methadone for postoperative pain in children
  • First study of the pharmacology of the local anesthetic 2-chloroprocaine in infants
  • First randomized crossover trial of lumbar sympathetic lidocaine and intravenous lidocaine in pediatric CRPS/RSD.
  • First double-blind study using a crossover paradigm to establish steady state potency ratio of morphine to hydromorphone in children

Clinical trials at Boston Children’s Hospital: To find a Boston Children’s Hospital clinical trial, visit and search for "Boston Children’s Hospital" and your child’s condition.


Dusica Bajic, MD, PhD Anesthesiology, Opioid tolerance
Charles Berde, MD, PhD Pain management
Kathryn Commons, PhD Neuroscience
Christine Sieberg, PhD

Laura Simons Giardi, PhD


For more information, please visit our clinical site.