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Pain Pract. 2001 Jan;1(1):11-20.

Epidemiology, pathophysiology, and management of complex regional pain syndrome.

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  • 1Comprehensive Pain Treatment Center, Hospital for joint Disease, Mt. Sinai/NYU Health, New York, NY 10003, USA.


Complex regional pain syndromes (CRPS) are challenging neuropathic pain states quite difficult to comprehend and treat. Although not yet fully understood, advances are being made in the knowledge of the mechanisms involved with CRPS. Patients often present with incapacitating pain and loss of function. Patients suffering from these disorders need to have treatment plans tailored to their individual problems. A comprehensive diagnostic evaluation and early and aggressive therapeutic interventions are imperative. The therapeutic approach often calls for a combination of treatments. Medications such as antiepileptics, opioids, antidepressants, and topical agents along with a rehabilitation medicine program can help a major portion of patients suffering from these disorders. Implantable devices can aid those patients with CRPS. While progress is being made in treating patients with CRPS, it is important to remember that the goals of care are always to: 1) perform a comprehensive diagnostic evaluation, 2) be prompt and aggressive in treatment interventions, 3) assess and reassess the patient's clinical and psychological status, 4) be consistently supportive, and 5) strive for the maximal amount of pain relief and functional improvement. In this review article, the current knowledge of the epidemiology, pathophysiology, diagnostic, and treatment methodologies of CRPS are discussed to provide the pain practitioner with essential and up-to-date guidelines for the management of CRPS.

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