White matter hyperintensities are related to pain intensity in an outpatient memory clinic population: Preliminary findings

Tarik T. Binnekade, Roberto S. G. M. Perez, Andrea B. Maier, Hanneke F. M. Rhodius-Meester, Nienke Legdeur, Marijke C. Trappenburg, Didi Rhebergen, Frank Lobbezoo, Erik J. A. Scherder

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Background: The association between pain and dementia is complicated and may depend on underlying brain pathology. It was hypothesized that both medial temporal atrophy (MTA) and global cortical atrophy (GCA) predicted no/mild pain, while white matter hyperintensities (WMH) predicted moderate/severe pain. Objectives: To study the association between pain intensity and measures of brain pathology, more specifically MTA, GCA, and WMH. Methods: In total, 115 consecutive patients visiting an outpatient memory clinic were included. In total, diagnoses included dementia (N=70), mild cognitive impairment (N=30), and subjective cognitive impairment (N=15). Without administering stimuli, pain intensity was assessed with the Brief Pain Inventory. MTA, GCA, and WMH were measured with a MRI visual rating scale. Logistic regression analyses to examine the relationship between WMH, MTA, GCA, and self-reported pain intensity (no/mild pain versus moderate/ severe pain) were adjusted for confounders. Results: Mean age of the patients was 81 years (IQR: 78-85, 53% female). Moderate/severe pain was reported by 23.5% and associated with greaterWMH (OR =3.34, 95%CI =1.01-10.97, p=0.047), but not MTA or GCA. Conclusions: In contrast to the present results, earlier studies have reported either a positive or negative relationship between pain and brain volume. It is suggested that the presence of dementia may explain the absence of a relationship between pain and brain volume. WMH is positively related with pain in an older memory outpatient population. Considering the small sample size, our findings should be interpreted with caution. Hence, our conclusions are preliminary findings, warranting future replication.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1621-1629
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Pain Research
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019

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