American Society of Anesthesiologists Launches Campaign in Opposition to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ Proposal to Pay Nurse Anesthetists for Pain Procedures

Chicago — (August 1, 2012) 

The American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) today launched a nationwide grassroots campaign in opposition to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) proposal to pay nurse anesthetists for chronic pain service.

Chronic pain management has been recognized as the practice of medicine. Almost all interventional pain services in the United States, including rural areas, are provided by properly trained physicians. Nurse anesthetists do not have formal education or training in chronic pain management.

“Even in the hands of specially trained physicians, chronic pain procedures are inherently dangerous due to the anatomy and delicate structure of the spine and nerves upon which chronic pain interventions are performed,” said ASA President Jerry A. Cohen, M.D. “Current restrictions on nurse anesthetists providing these services are appropriate and necessary in the interest of patient safety.”

Potential complications from pain procedures include allergic reactions, infections, bleeding, nerve damage, spinal cord injuries (e.g. paralysis) and brain stem tissue damage. All of these risks require extensive and costly medical interventions to address.

Anesthesiologists and other physicians are able to best provide pain management care, as they have the education and training, and are able to prescribe appropriate medication therapies. Often, chronic pain services include opioids, where specialized physician training is needed to minimize inappropriate use and prevent potentially lethal side effects.

“We urge CMS to reject the proposal,” continued Dr. Cohen. “Using scarce Medicare dollars to pay nurse anesthetists to perform complicated pain service procedures unnecessarily puts patients at risk. Patients who require anesthesia or relief from pain deserve the safest and highest quality of care.”

Patients who are concerned about who will perform their pain procedure, should consult their physician. For more information on pain medicine, please visit


Founded in 1905, the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) is an educational, research and scientific society with more than 52,000 members organized to raise and maintain the standards of the medical practice of anesthesiology. ASA is committed to ensuring physician anesthesiologists evaluate and supervise the medical care of patients before, during and after surgery to provide the highest quality and safest care every patient deserves.

For more information on the field of anesthesiology, visit the American Society of Anesthesiologists online at To learn more about the role physician anesthesiologists play in ensuring patient safety, visit Join the ANESTHESIOLOGYTM 2014 social conversation today. Like ASA on Facebook, follow ASALifeline on Twitter and use the hashtag #ANES2014.



American Society of Anesthesiologists