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Spinal Cord. 2003 Feb;41(2):61-75.

Complex regional pain syndrome--diagnostic, mechanisms, CNS involvement and therapy.

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  • 1Klinik f├╝r Neurologie, Universit├Ątsklinikum Kiel, 24105 Kiel, Germany.


Complex regional pain syndromes (CRPS, formerly reflex sympathetic dystrophy and causalgia) are neuropathic pain conditions of one extremity developing inadequately after a trauma. The initiating trauma affects primarily the extremity, but can also be a central lesion (e.g., spinal cord injury, stroke). CRPS is clinically characterized by sensory, autonomic and motor disturbances. Pathophysiologically there is evidence for functional changes within the central nervous system and for involvement of peripheral inflammatory processes. The sympathetic nervous system plays a key role in maintaining pain and autonomic dysfunction in the affected extremity. After a primary central lesion, secondary peripheral changes in the paretic extremity are suggested to be important in initiating a CRPS. Though there is no diagnostic gold standard, careful clinical evaluation and additional test procedures should lead to an adequate diagnosis. An early diagnosis and an interdisciplinary approach are important for optimal and successful treatment.

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