To explore the relationship between polysomnography-derived respiratory indices and chronic pain status among individuals following traumatic brain injury (TBI).
Participants (n = 66) with moderate to severe TBI underwent polysomnography during inpatient acute rehabilitation and their chronic pain status was assessed at 1- to 2-year follow-up as part of the TBI Model Systems Pain Collaborative Study. Pairwise comparisons across pain cohorts (ie, chronic pain, no history of pain) were made to explore differences on polysomnography indices.
Among our total sample, approximately three-quarters (74.2%) received sleep apnea diagnoses utilizing American Academy of Sleep Medicine criteria, with 61.9% of those endorsing a history of chronic pain. Of those endorsing chronic pain, the average pain score was 4.8 (standard deviation = 2.1), with a mean interference score of 5.3 (2.7). Pairwise comparisons revealed that those endorsing a chronic pain experience at follow-up experienced categorically worse indicators of sleep-related breathing disorders during acute rehabilitation relative to those who did not endorse chronic pain. Important differences were observed with elevations on central (chronic pain: 2.6; no pain: 0.8 per hour) and obstructive apnea (chronic pain: 15.7; no pain: 11.1 per hour) events, as well as oxygen desaturation indices (chronic pain: 19.6; no pain: 7.9 per hour).
Sleep-disordered breathing appears worse among those who endorse chronic pain following moderate-to-severe TBI, but additional research is needed to understand its relation to postinjury pain. Prospective investigation is necessary to determine how clinical decisions (eg, opioid therapy) and intervention (eg, positive airway pressure) may mutually influence outcomes.
Clinical trial registration:
Registry: ClinicalTrials.gov; Name: Comparison of Sleep Apnea Assessment Strategies to Maximize TBI Rehabilitation Participation and Outcome (C-SAS); URL: https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT03033901; Identifier: NCT03033901.
Martin AM, Pinto SM, Tang X, et al. Associations between early sleep-disordered breathing following moderate-to-severe traumatic brain injury and long-term chronic pain status: a Traumatic Brain Injury Model Systems study. J Clin Sleep Med. 2023;19(1):135-143.
TBI; chronic pain; polysomnography; sleep apnea.