Jodi - posted on 05/19/2011 ( 22 moms have responded )
Women preparing to give birth may soon be able to have a genetic test that predicts how much pain they are likely to experience and the sort of painkillers they will need.
Professor Alex Sia, an obstetric anaesthetist at Singapore's KK Women's and Children's Hospital, said studies had shown that people's perception of pain and reaction to different painkiller drugs varied according to genetic make-up and ethnicity.
He said a study of about 1000 Chinese, Indian and Malay women that measured how much pain they reported after a caesarean section, found that Indian women complained much more about their pain than the Malay and Chinese women. The Indian women also consumed much more morphine as a result.
Furthermore, the research showed that all women with a particular gene variation, regardless of ethnicity, reported significantly higher pain than the other women. In some cases, these women consumed three times the amount of morphine compared to the others. There was also an association between the genetic variant and how much a woman experienced side effects of morphine, including nausea and vomiting.
Professor Sia said the research was an exciting step in the discovery of links between genes, pain and individual responses to different painkillers. Although there were many other factors in pain perception, including one's psychological state, he said the research could lead to a genetic test for doctors to take a blood sample and tailor anaesthetics and painkillers.
He said the aim is to be able to identify the full range of genes associated with pain. ''That would mean that if someone comes in for surgery we could take a drop of blood to know ... their requirement for analgesia and pain relief,'' he said, adding such a test could be in use within five to 10 years.
Professor Sia said this would be particularly helpful in maternity wards because there was a strong association between pain during and after child birth and depression, often affecting a woman's ability to look after herself and her baby.
He said understanding individual responses to powerful drugs such as morphine could also improve patient safety.
Dr Sia cites respiratory depression, a potentially lethal complication that can result in patients given morphine.
''For some people, the dose that leads to respiratory depression in someone else is not enough to relieve their pain,'' he said. ''There has to be an explanation for this and that is what we're hoping for.''
Professor Sia presented the research to the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists annual scientific meeting in Hong Kong.
What are your thoughts on this? Would you want the test? Why or Why Not?