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Pain. 2012 Apr;153(4):765-74. doi: 10.1016/j.pain.2011.11.009. Epub 2011 Dec 10.

Sensory signs in complex regional pain syndrome and peripheral nerve injury.

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Division of Neurological Pain Research and Therapy, Department of Neurology, Universitätsklinikum Schleswig-Holstein, Campus Kiel, Kiel, Germany.


This study determined patterns of sensory signs in complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) type I and II and peripheral nerve injury (PNI). Patients with upper-limb CRPS-I (n=298), CRPS-II (n=46), and PNI (n=72) were examined with quantitative sensory testing according to the protocol of the German Research Network on Neuropathic Pain. The majority of patients (66%-69%) exhibited a combination of sensory loss and gain. Patients with CRPS-I had more sensory gain (heat and pressure pain) and less sensory loss than patients with PNI (thermal and mechanical detection, hypoalgesia to heat or pinprick). CRPS-II patients shared features of CRPS-I and PNI. CRPS-I and CRPS-II had almost identical somatosensory profiles, with the exception of a stronger loss of mechanical detection in CRPS-II. In CRPS-I and -II, cold hyperalgesia/allodynia (28%-31%) and dynamic mechanical allodynia (24%-28%) were less frequent than heat or pressure hyperalgesia (36%-44%, 67%-73%), and mechanical hypoesthesia (31%-55%) was more frequent than thermal hypoesthesia (30%-44%). About 82% of PNI patients had at least one type of sensory gain. QST demonstrates more sensory loss in CRPS-I than hitherto considered, suggesting either minimal nerve injury or central inhibition. Sensory profiles suggest that CRPS-I and CRPS-II may represent one disease continuum. However, in contrast to recent suggestions, small fiber deficits were less frequent than large fiber deficits. Sensory gain is highly prevalent in PNI, indicating a better similarity of animal models to human patients than previously thought. These sensory profiles should help prioritize approaches for translation between animal and human research.

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