Why Podiatrists Should Be Attending PAINweek

Stephen Barrett DPM FACFAS

A few weeks ago, I went to a huge frat party, the Kappa Mu Delta* to be exact, and it was in Las Vegas. Now I know what happens in Vegas is supposed to stay in Vegas but I’m going to kiss and tell, so to speak.

I just have to violate the Vegas code of all codes because this was such an awesome experience that I can’t keep it contained. (Imagine the excitement of that newly engaged young women sporting her new 1-carat diamond ring that her beau just sold a kidney for in Mumbai, India, and not constantly extending her left hand out to everyone including the barista at the coffee shop just to show it off). I just don’t have the self-discipline to contain this secret gem and, really, there is more joy in sharing than hoarding. I am busting at the seams to get some more of us to this monstrous, cortex-kicking event next year.

Let me warn you. There was serious hazing going on here and if it did not take place in Vegas, this frat would have lost its charter faster than a politician can change a talking point on a live telecast. There was no waterboarding. Let’s just call it mind whipping or, better yet, “brain boarding.” At the end of each day, my gray matter was reduced to what I imagined was a yellowish shade of fatty, liquefied, necrotic ooze indicative of neuronal degeneration, which was sloshing around in there in such a way that vertigo would have seemed rock steady and truly welcomed.

In fact, during my daily, relentless mind whip, I experienced a central nervous system neuronal reverse peristalsis because of the sheer amount of incredibly useful information I tried to ingest several times daily. I just couldn’t hold it all in a retrievable place. I am sure some of it is still in there but the 1.2 terabyte noggin drive I used to have is now down in the kilobyte range and has some difficulty with organization.

The Kappa Mu Delta Frat party is officially known as PAINweek. Are you kidding me (there’s John McEnroe’s voice again)? PAINweek. Why would anyone want to go to a party called PAINweek unless you are a full-fledged masochist?

I will tell you why. It is probably the biggest pain management conference in the United States and without a doubt the most well organized meeting I have ever attended. The guys they put up on the podium were nothing less than titans and giants in their disciplines. (Most of them were less than 5’10”. We’re talking academic giants here and not size for you literal readers.) These speakers offered the most cutting edge stuff you never heard of and I guarantee you won’t unless you go to another event like this. There were neurologists, pain management specialists, anesthesiologists, numerous other specialists and even a couple of lawyers. Lawyers? Yeah, lawyers.

Remember when you are doling out those heavy amounts of opioids, Big Brother is watching and he doesn’t care about the patient so much as he wants that “Barney Fife moment” on the 5 o’clock news, which justifies the ridiculous amount of taxpayer waste. The 20-second sound bite goes something like this: “Doctor Pheless arrested for unlawful distribution of heroin-like drugs! More coverage at 10.”

Wow, now that is a sexy news teaser. Later, you find out what really happened was that Dr. Pheless prescribed 100 extended release morphine tablets for a patient with intractable cancer pain. Then one of her devoted sons decided that since she would likely die off before all the meds would be gone, it might be a good idea to siphon off a few for street sale. This leads to the purchase of the newest version of “VirtualBlame,” that hot new computer game that absolves the player from any responsibility to society, family or him- or herself.

Why does Dr. Pheless take the hit? It is because of inadequate charting/documentation instructing the patient to keep her medication secured and nothing more. (You have to ask yourself a question now. Is that fiction I just made up for literary sake or did it really happen? I’m not going to tell you as I want you to read the sequel.)

Now here are some “teasers” for why you need to go to this meeting next year.

1. It is in Vegas.
2. You can get a free DNA test (at least I did this year) to see what type of cytochrome P450 enzymes you have. (I have not gotten my results yet but I am a little scared that they might find some type of mutation, which will confirm what my closest friends have been saying about me for decades.)
3. You will not hear one lecture on what type of osteotomy is best for hallux valgus correction.
4. You will learn how to diagnose if a patient has centralized pain and what to do about it.
5. You will learn why you might need to start checking the hormone levels on some of your chronic pain patients.
6. You will get so many nuggets of info that will help your patients that literally the next week in clinic, patients will think much more highly of you, which will make you feel better about yourself.
7. You will get a perspective that you cannot gain from any podiatric meeting except for an Association of Extremity Nerve Surgeons (AENS) meeting.
8. You will understand complex regional pain syndrome to a level that will exceed what you currently know, which will help you help these patients.
9. You will get some useful tools to prevent the acute pain of a surgical procedure from progressing to a chronic postoperative pain.

I now expect to see you next year at PAINweek. Check it out and register now. Also, remember that if you have any interest in the peripheral nerve, and you should, go to the AENS website (www.AENS.us ) and come to the annual meeting in November. Then get yourself to the Wine and Nerve meeting in Napa Valley in February 2013. Both of these events have absolutely world-class speakers and it will be a positive experience for you.

Disclaimer: I have no financial interest in PAINweek and am not a paid consultant to get people to go to their meeting. Besides, they have enough attendees already. They don’t need us. We need them.

*The Kappa Mu Delta Fraternity is completely fictitious and I concocted it for acknowledgment of the different opioid receptor sites. If there is a real Kappa Mu Delta fraternity or sorority out there, please send me a cool logoed T-shirt. You may want to come to the meeting as well.

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