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Pain. 2007 Oct;131(3):330-40. Epub 2007 Aug 6.

The characteristics of chronic central pain after traumatic brain injury.

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  • 1Department of Physical Therapy, School of Health Professions, Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Tel-Aviv University, Ramat Aviv, Israel.


Central pain following traumatic brain injury (TBI) has not been studied in depth. Our purpose was to conduct a systematic study of patients with TBI suffering from chronic central pain, and to describe the characteristics of the central pain. Groups were TBI patients with (TBIP) and without central pain (TBINP) and healthy controls. TBI patients with other pain mechanisms were excluded from the study. Participants underwent quantitative somatosensory testing in the painful and pain-free body regions. Thresholds for warmth, cold, heat-pain, touch and graphesthesia were measured and pathologically evoked pain (allodynia, hyperpathia and wind-up pain) evaluated. Chronic pain was mapped and characterized. Chronic pain developed at a relatively late onset (6.6+/-9 months) was almost exclusively unilateral and reported as pricking, throbbing and burning. Although both TBIP and TBINP exhibited a significant reduction in thermal and tactile sensations compared to controls, thermal sensations in the painful regions of TBIP were significantly more impaired than pain-free regions in the same patients (p<0.01) and in TBINP (p<0.01). Painful regions also exhibited very high rates of allodynia, hyperpathia and exaggerated wind-up. The characteristics of the chronic pain resembled those of other central pain patients although TBIP displayed several unique features. The sensory profile indicated that damage to the pain and temperature systems is a necessary but not sufficient condition for the development of chronic central pain following TBI. Neuronal hyperexcitability may be a contributing factor to the chronic pain.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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