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Clin J Pain. 2002 Jul-Aug;18(4):207-15.

Complex regional pain syndrome type I: use of the International Association for the Study of Pain diagnostic criteria defined in 1994.

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Department of Rehabilitation, University Hospital Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands.



The objective was to assess the reported use in recent publications of the diagnostic criteria for complex regional pain syndrome type I (CRPS I) proposed by the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) in 1994.


A literature search of MEDLINE (January 1996 to July 2000) was performed with use of the medical subject heading "reflex sympathetic dystrophy" and the free texts words "complex," "regional," "pain," and "syndrome." Publications in English, German, and Dutch were analyzed. From the search, 65 original publications were selected. Another 27 publications (referenced publications) that were referenced in the 65 original publications for the description of diagnostic criteria for CRPS I also were included. A standard form was used to assess a total of 92 publications. A sensitivity analysis was performed by means of analyzing three scenarios in which the diagnostic criteria were used as proposed and two combinations of less stringent criteria.


Use of the diagnostic criterion pain was reported in 35 (38%) of the analyzed publications. None of the original publications satisfied the proposed IASP diagnostic criteria. Four (15%) of the referenced publications satisfied the proposed IASP diagnostic criteria. Ten (15%) of the original publications referred correctly to the referenced publications. With the less strict criteria used in scenarios 2 and 3, 2 (3%) and 3 (5%), respectively, of the original publications fulfilled these criteria.


If the diagnostic criteria for CRPS I are not used uniformly, the populations in clinical studies may not be uniform either. Whether different authors are describing the same syndrome and whether their findings can be compared is open to question. On the basis of the results of this study, it is concluded that the IASP criteria for CRPS I are poorly used in clinical studies.

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