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Pain. 1999 Mar;80(1-2):171-7.

Patterns of hyperalgesia in complex regional pain syndrome.

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  • 1Neurologische Klinik, Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, Erlangen, Germany.


Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is characterized by a triad of sensory, motor and autonomic dysfunctions, with long-standing pain and temperature differences of the affected and contralateral limb as predominant symptoms. The pathogenesis of the disorder still remains unclear. Among the main hypotheses of an underlying pathophysiology we find inflammatory processes and dysfunction of the sympathetic nervous system. Whether the main site of dysfunction is found centrally or peripherally is not known. With psychophysical methods we studied patterns of hyperalgesia to obtain a better understanding of the neuropathic pain component in CRPS. Forty patients in an acute phase of CRPS and a median duration of the disease of 10 weeks, were included in the study. Hyperalgesia to heat was tested with a thermode providing feedback-controlled temperature increases. Two forms of mechanical hyperalgesia were examined: phasic mechanical stimuli by using a custom-made impact stimulator for the determination of individual pain thresholds, tonic mechanical stimuli were applied using a pinch-device. Additionally a 'wind-up' paradigm was used to study a pain phenomenon of presumed central origin: a defined impact stimulus was given once and five times in repetition. A subpopulation of patients was reevaluated for mechanical hyperalgesia after i.v. injection of 500 mg acetyl-salicylic acid. Hyperalgesia to heat was insignificant. We found, however, a marked mechanical hyperalgesia to phasic impact stimuli (P < 0.005), whereas, static stimulation (squeezing skin folds) results were insignificant again. Wind-up related pain was also significantly enhanced in the affected limb (P < 0.02). The anti-inflammatory agent had no effect. These results indicate a non-inflammatory pathogenesis in CRPS presumably central in origin.

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