RESEARCH SUPPORT, NON-U.S. GOV'T
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The specificity and mechanisms of hemilateral sensory disturbances in complex regional pain syndrome.

Journal of Pain 2011 September
UNLABELLED: Hyperalgesia often extends from the affected limb to the ipsilateral forehead in patients with complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS). To investigate whether this is more common in CRPS than other chronic pain conditions, pressure-pain thresholds and sharpness to a firm bristle were assessed on each side of the forehead, at the pain site, and at an equivalent site on the contralateral side in 32 patients with chronic pain other than CRPS (neuropathic or nociceptive limb pain, radicular pain with referral to a lower limb or postherpetic neuralgia), and in 34 patients with CRPS. Ipsilateral forehead hyperalgesia to pressure pain was detected in 59% of CRPS patients compared with only 13% of patients with other forms of chronic pain. Immersion of the CRPS-affected limb in painfully cold water increased forehead sensitivity to pressure, especially ipsilaterally, whereas painful stimulation of the healthy limb reduced forehead sensitivity to pressure pain (albeit less efficiently than in healthy controls). In addition, auditory discomfort and increases in pain in the CRPS-affected limb were greater after acoustic startle to the ear on the affected than unaffected side. These findings indicate that generalized and hemilateral pain control mechanisms are disrupted in CRPS, and that multisensory integrative processes may be compromised.

PERSPECTIVE: The findings suggest that hemilateral hyperalgesia is specific to CRPS, which could be diagnostically important. Disruptions in pain-control mechanisms were associated with the development of hyperalgesia at sites remote from the CRPS limb. Addressing these mechanisms could potentially deter widespread hyperalgesia in CRPS.

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