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J Pediatr Psychol. 2000 Jun;25(4):269-78.

Pain-sensitive temperament: does it predict procedural distress and response to psychological treatment among children with cancer?

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Department of Psychology, Washington University, Campus Box 1125, St. Louis, MO 63130-4899, USA.



To evaluate the relationship between pain sensitivity and children's distress during lumbar punctures (LPs), and whether pain sensitivity functions as a moderator of children's responses to a psychological intervention aimed at reducing LP distress.


Fifty-five children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ages 3 to 18) and their parents completed a questionnaire measure of pain sensitivity. Self-report, physiological, and observed measures of distress were collected during the study baseline LP. Children were then randomized into a psychological intervention or an attention control group. Postintervention and follow-up LPs were observed.


Higher levels of pain sensitivity were associated with greater anxiety and pain, both prior to and during the LP. Preliminary analyses indicated that pain sensitivity moderated the effects of intervention on distress. Children who were more pain-sensitive and who received no intervention showed greater increases in LP distress over time. In contrast, children who were more pain-sensitive and who received intervention showed greater decreases in LP distress over time.


A measurement of pain sensitivity may be useful in pediatric oncology settings for effectively targeting pain-vulnerable children for psychological intervention. Preliminary analyses indicate that an empirically-supported intervention for procedural distress is efficacious for those children who are most pain-sensitive.

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