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Research at Mass General
Research Roundup is a monthly column highlighting recent research studies from investigators at Massachusetts General Hospital. This month, we look at a study investigating the impact of laws restricting use of off-road-vehicles by young drivers on injury rates, and how the brains of patients with fibromyalgia process pain.
In response to growing rates of injuries and hospitalizations among children riding off-road-vehicles (ORVs), including all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), Massachusetts passed a law in 2010 banning ORV operation by anyone under the age of 14, except in rare cases with direct supervision by an adult, and requiring children 14 to 17 years old to take education and training classes and be supervised by an adult when riding an ORV.
To investigate whether rates of both emergency depart visits and hospital admissions resulting from ORV injuries have gone down since the law was introduced, Michael Flaherty, DO, of the Division of Pediatric Critical Care Medicine at MassGeneral Hospital for Children (MGHfC), and a team of investigators from MGHfC analyzed data for four age categories — ages 9 and under, 10 to 13, 14 to 17, and for purposes of comparison, adults ages 25 to 34.
They found that the rate of hospitalizations for all those 17 and under dropped 41 percent after the law’s implementation, while the 25-to-34-year comparison group had a drop of 26 percent.
“The results of our study indicate that comprehensive laws that include age restrictions can in fact decrease the numbers of pediatric injuries that result from ATV crashes,” says senior author Peter Masiakos, MS, MD, of the MGHfC Department of Pediatric Surgery.
Given that this is the first law of its kind, the results provide important insight for the design of future legislation.
Researchers Help Shed Light on a Perplexing Chronic Pain Disorder
Fibromyalgia is a common chronic pain disorder that impacts 5-10 million Americans.
It’s thought that the widespread pain fibromyalgia patients experience is due to disturbances in the central nervous system that affect the way the brain processes pain signals. But why these disturbances occur remains a mystery.
In an effort to find answers, Marco Loggia, PhD, Associate Director of the Center for Integrative Pain NeuroImaging and a researcher in the Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging at Massachusetts General Hospital, studies the brain mechanisms of pain in patients with fibromyalgia. His research suggests that some degree of brain inflammation may be at play, given that brain inflammation is common among chronic back pain sufferers and most fibromyalgia patients suffer from chronic back pain.
Because there are no lab tests to diagnose fibromyalgia, patients are frequently met with skepticism, even by their own primary care team. The pain they report is often dismissed as being “all in their head.”
In a recent interview with HealthDay News, Loggia said, “Many studies—and particularly those using brain imaging techniques such as functional magnetic resonance imaging—have now provided substantial support to the notion that the excessive sensitivity to pain that these patients demonstrate is genuine. I think that it is time to stop dismissing these patients.”
With researchers like Loggia investigating its causes and progression, could individuals suffering from fibromyalgia soon see advances in treatment and care?
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