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J Pain Symptom Manage. 2001 Jun;21(6):511-26.

Treatment of reflex sympathetic dystrophy (CRPS type 1): a research synthesis of 21 randomized clinical trials.

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Department of Anesthesiology, Research Institute for Clinical and Fundamental Human Movement Sciences, University Hospital Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


A blinded meta analysis was performed on randomized clinical trials (RCT) on the medicinal treatment of reflex sympathetic dystrophy (complex regional pain syndrome type I) to assess the methodological quality and quantify the analgesic effect of treatments by calculating individual and summary effect sizes. The internal validity of 21 RCTs was investigated and the quality weighted summary effect size was calculated using a fixed effect model (Glass Delta). The methodological quality ranged from moderate to good (average 46%). Differences were found between the trials in inclusion/exclusion criteria, treatment methods, duration of treatments and trials, and measurement instruments. Statistical analysis was possible for four subgroups; one evaluating the analgesic effects of sympathetic suppressors in general (n = 12), one subgroup concerning the analgesic effects of guanethidine (n = 6), one investigating the analgesic effect of intravenous regional sympathetic blocks (n = 9), and one subgroup (n = 5) evaluating the analgesic effect of calcitonin. Except for the calcitonin subgroup (P = 0.002), the quality-weighted summary effect size of these subgroups were not significant. No significant analgesic effect by sympathetic suppressing agents could be established. Calcitonin seems to provide effective pain relief in reflex sympathetic dystrophy patients. The results of the present study show that weighting methodological quality influences the magnitude of the effect sizes of specific treatment methods. Future studies should control for methodological quality.

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