Generating and sharing new knowledge about chronic abdominal pain in kids is a vital component of the APP’s mission. Only through developing a better understanding of this complex condition can we hope to make treatment available and effective for everyone. To that end, our research program has three focus areas (described in greater detail below):
- Understanding biopsychosocial relationships and mechanisms of pain generation,
- Innovation in health care delivery and clinical outcomes, and
- Clinical pharmacology and therapeutics.
To date, research within the APP has resulted in over 30 published research articles and book chapters and over 50 presentations at national or international meetings. These efforts have helped to shape the discussion of abdominal pain across the nation and internationally.
Chronic abdominal pain is best understood through a biopsychosocial model which states that pain and other symptoms are the result of varying contributions from, and interactions between biological factors (e.g. inflammation, mechanical disturbances, gut flora, hypersensitivity), psychological factors (e.g. mood, anxiety, coping skills, sleep), and social factors (e.g. interactions with parents, siblings, teachers, and peers). A major focus of our research has been understanding the roles and interactions between these various components.
We have evaluated the role of specific types of inflammatory cells, specifically mast cells and eosinophils, as well as electomechanical factors including autonomic function, gastric electrical function, gastric emptying, and gastric sensitivity. In several studies, we have evaluated the interactions among inflammation and various electromechanical disturbances along with specific symptoms and symptom severity. We have evaluated global psychologic functioning, as well as the relationships between anxiety and gastrointestinal symptoms and inflammation. Utilizing innovative technology, we have evaluated the role of specific biologic and psychosocial triggers of abdominal pain exacerbation. In addition, we have evaluated the effects of parental interventions and sleep disturbances and their interactions with other factors. Current studies focus on further evaluating the biopsychosocial model and extending this model to also include the intestinal microbiome.