Maria Pacella-LaBarbara, PhD

  • Research Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine

Dr. Maria Pacella-LaBarbara is a Health Psychologist with extensive experience working with acutely injured patients and investigating secondary interventions post-injury to improve both mental and physical health outcomes. The focus of her multidisciplinary research is to identify targets for psychological intervention to prevent the transition to post-injury chronic pain. Her work involves high-risk injured populations, varied study designs (e.g., randomized controlled trials, prospective cohorts, meta-analytic techniques) and innovative methods (e.g., mobile health interventions; experience sampling methodology). She recently conducted trials examining the efficacy of a mobile health app to prevent post-injury PTSD and painful complaints, the ability of text messaging to enhance the prediction and prevention of PTSD and pain immediately after injury, and the psychological and behavioral correlates of opioid misuse among injured patients. Additionally, her team was recently awarded funds for a RCT testing the efficacy of benzodiazepines at reducing acute distress and pain in the ED, and across the acute post-injury recovery period. Together with multi-disciplinary researchers both within and outside of the University, Dr. Pacella-LaBarbara is working to develop a program of research that advances acute integrated healthcare to improve recovery after injury.

Education & Training

  • 2015 Medical College of Wisconsin;Center for Aids Intervention Research, NRSA Postdoctoral Fellowship in HIV Prevention
  • 2013 Kent State University, PhD; Experimental Health Psychology
  • 2010 Kent State University, MA; Experimental Health Psychology
  • 2006 Saint Vincent College, BA; Psychology

Representative Publications

1.       Pacella, M.L., Girard, J., Wright, A., Suffoletto, B., & Callaway, C.W. (2018). The Association between Daily Posttraumatic Stress Symptoms and Pain over the First 14-days after Injury: An Experience Sampling Study. Academic Emergency Medicine, 25(8), 844-855.

2.       Brienza, A., Gianforcaro, A., Suffoletto, B., Callaway, C.W., & Pacella, M.L. (2018). The utility of assessing for pain interference and psychological factors among Emergency Department patients who present with pain. General Hospital Psychiatry, 52, 21-26. 

3.       Pacella, M.L., Hruska, B., George, R.L., & Delahanty, D.L. (2018). The role of negative affect on headache-related disability following traumatic physical injury. Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain, 58(3), 381-398.

4.       Pacella, M.L., Prabhu, A., Morley, J., Huang, S., & Suffoletto, B.P. (2018). Post- concussive symptoms over the first 14 days after mild traumatic brain injury: an experience sampling study. Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation, 33(3), p E31–E39.

5.       Quinn, K., Pacella, M.L., Dickson-Gomez, J., Nydigger, L. (2017). Childhood adversity and the continued exposure to trauma and violence among adolescent gang members. American Journal of Community Psychology, 59(1-2), 36-49. doi: 10.1002/ajcp.12123

6.       Pacella, M.L., Hruska, B., Steudte-Schmiedgen, S., George, R., & Delahanty, D.L. (2017). The utility of hair cortisol concentrations in the prediction of PTSD symptoms following traumatic physical injury. Social Science & Medicine, 175, 228-234. doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2016.12.046

7.       Hruska, B., Pacella, M.L., George, R.L., & Delahanty, D.L. (2016). Trajectories of daily PTSD symptoms in recent traumatic injury victims. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice and Policy, 8(6), 676-679.

8.       Pacella, M.L., Hruska, B., & Delahanty, D.L. (2013). The physical health consequences of PTSD and PTSD symptoms: A meta-analytic review. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 27(1), 33-46.

Research Interests

Pacella-LaBarbara Research: The focus of our multidisciplinary research is to identify targets for psychological intervention to prevent the transition to post-injury chronic pain, and to advance acute integrated healthcare to improve physical and mental health recovery after injury. Painful complaints: • We recently conducted a trial examining the efficacy of a mobile health app to prevent post-injury PTSD and painful complaints. • We are currently conducting a trial to examine the efficacy of benzodiazepines at reducing acute distress and pain in the Emergency Department, and across the acute post-injury recovery period. Psychological and behavioral correlates of injury: • We used text messaging to enhance the prediction and prevention of PTSD and pain immediately after injury. • We examined the psychological and behavioral correlates of opioid misuse among injured patients.

Research Grants

Research Support:

 

Title: Risk of long-term opioid use and its sequelae due to opioid prescribing for acute pain

Project Period: 2018-2020

Role: Investigator

Sponsor: The Benter Foundation

Purpose:  This project will address a critical gap in the understanding of the opioid crisis by estimating the risk of long-term opioid use and its sequalae due to excess prescribing of opioids for acute pain.

 

Title: Single dose administration of Benzodiazepines to reduce distress, pain severity, and the need for opiates both during and after Emergency Department care: A Randomized Controlled Trial

Project Period: 2018-2019

Role: Principal Investigator

Sponsor: University of Pittsburgh Physicians (UPP)/UPMC Academic Foundation

Purpose: We will determine whether oral lorazepam vs. placebo reduces distress, pain severity, and need for opiate analgesics both in the Emergency Department and in the acute recovery period after discharge.

 

Title: Coaching Pain and PTSD Elimination (COPE): A Randomized Controlled Trial

Project Period: 2017-2018

Role: Principal Investigator

Sponsor: University of Pittsburgh Clinical and Translational Science Institute

Purpose: We aimed to determine whether the PTSD Coach app (vs. treatment as usual) would lead to reduced PTSD symptoms and pain reports after a traumatic physical injury among Emergency Department patients.

Pending:

 

1 K01 AR073300-01A1                                                                                                                                                   

Title: An in-depth Examination of the Psychological Processes involved in the Transition from Acute to Chronic Pain after a Traumatic Musculoskeletal Injury

Project Period: 2019-2024

Role: PI

Sponsor: NIH/National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Skin Diseases

Purpose: This project aims to determine the temporal associations between maladaptive psychological processes and the development of chronic pain among motor vehicle accident victims with traumatic musculoskeletal injury.