INTRODUCTION: Severe abdominal pain is a cardinal symptom of chronic pancreatitis (CP) associated with a high economic and societal burden. In other chronic pain conditions, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) has demonstrated efficacy in improving patient outcomes (e.g., pain-related disability and depression). However, CBT has not yet been evaluated in adult patients with painful CP. We aimed to (i) evaluate the feasibility and acceptability of an adapted Internet CBT program for CP and (ii) generate pilot data regarding the effects of treatment on patient pain outcomes. METHODS: Thirty adults (mean age = 49.8 years, SD = 12.5; 80% women) with suspected or definite CP were randomized to Internet CBT (Pancreatitis Pain Course) versus control. The Pancreatitis Pain Course has 5 CBT lessons (e.g., thought challenging, relaxation, and activity pacing) delivered over 8 weeks. Pain interference, pain intensity, and quality of life were assessed at pretreatment, posttreatment, and the 3-month follow-up. Qualitative interviews were conducted at posttreatment with a subset of participants. RESULTS: Eighty percent of participants rated the program as highly acceptable; 64.3% completed all 5 lessons. Qualitative data revealed positive perceptions of program features, relevancy, and skills. Patients randomized to Internet CBT demonstrated moderate to large effects in reducing pain intensity and pain interference from baseline to 3 months. The proportion of treatment responders (>30% improvement) was significantly greater in the Internet-CBT group than in the control group (50% vs 13%, Fisher exact t test P = 0.04). DISCUSSION: In this first trial of CBT pain self-management in CP, feasibility, acceptability, and preliminary efficacy for reducing pain and disability were demonstrated. Future definitive trials of CBT are needed.
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