Complex Regional Pain Syndrome Research Update 12/12 | Part 2

Keep abreast of developments with our research updates:

Part 2 of the December 2012 Research Update for Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (aka RSD)

PLoS One. 2011 Apr 29;6(4):e18775.

Complex interaction of sensory and motor signs and symptoms in chronic CRPS.

Huge V, Lauchart M, Magerl W, Beyer A, Moehnle P, Kaufhold W, Schelling G, Azad SC.


Spontaneous pain, hyperalgesia as well as sensory abnormalities, autonomic, trophic, and motor disturbances are key features of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS). This study was conceived to comprehensively characterize the interaction of these symptoms in 118 patients with chronic upper limb CRPS (duration of disease: 43±23 months). Disease-related stress, depression, and the degree of accompanying motor disability were likewise assessed. Stress and depression were measured by Posttraumatic Stress Symptoms Score and Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Test. Motor disability of the affected hand was determined by Sequential Occupational Dexterity Assessment and Michigan Hand Questionnaire. Sensory changes were assessed by Quantitative Sensory Testing according to the standards of the German Research Network on Neuropathic Pain. Almost two-thirds of all patients exhibited spontaneous pain at rest. Hand force as well as hand motor function were found to be substantially impaired. Results of Quantitative Sensory Testing revealed a distinct pattern of generalized bilateral sensory loss and hyperalgesia, most prominently to blunt pressure. Patients reported substantial motor complaints confirmed by the objective motor disability testings. Interestingly, patients displayed clinically relevant levels of stress and depression. We conclude that chronic CRPS is characterized by a combination of ongoing pain, pain-related disability, stress and depression, potentially triggered by peripheral nerve/tissue damage and ensuing sensory loss. In order to consolidate the different dimensions of disturbances in chronic CRPS, we developed a model based on interaction analysis suggesting a complex hierarchical interaction of peripheral (injury/sensory loss) and central factors (pain/disability/stress/depression) predicting motor dysfunction and hyperalgesia.

Full article here


Pain. 2012 Apr;153(4):765-74. Epub 2011 Dec 10.

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

Gierthmühlen J, Maier C, Baron R, Tölle T, Treede RD, Birbaumer N, Huge V, Koroschetz J, Krumova EK, Lauchart M, Maihöfner C, Richter H, Westermann A; German Research Network on Neuropathic Pain (DFNS) study group.


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.

Link here


Eur J Med Res. 2009 Mar 17;14(3):130-5.

Systemic inflammatory mediators in post-traumatic complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS I) – longitudinal investigations and differences to control groups.

Schinkel C, Scherens A, Köller M, Roellecke G, Muhr G, Maier C.



The Complex Regional Pain Syndrome I (CRPS I) is a disease that might affect an extremity after trauma or operation. The pathogenesis remains yet unclear. It has clinical signs of severe local inflammation as a result of an exaggerated inflammatory response but neurogenic dysregulation also contributes to it. Some studies investigated the role inflammatory mediators and cytokines; however, few longitudinal studies exist and control groups except healthy controls were not investigated yet.


To get further insights into the role of systemic inflammatory mediators in CRPS I, we investigated a variety of pro-, anti-, or neuro-inflammatory mediators such as C-Reactive Protein (CRP), White Blood Cell Count (WBC), Interleukins 4, 6, 8, 10, 11, 12 (p70), Interferon gamma, Tumor-Necrosis-Factor alpha (TNF-a) and its soluble Receptors I/II, soluble Selectins (E,L,P), Substance-P (SP), and Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide (CGRP) at different time points in venous blood from patients with acute (AC) and chronic (CC) CRPS I, patients with forearm fractures (FR), with neuralgia (NE), and from healthy volunteers (C).


No significant changes for serum parameters investigated in CRPS compared to control groups were found except for CC/C (CGRP p = 0.007), FR/C (CGRP p = 0.048) and AC/CC (IL-12 p = 0.02; TNFRI/II p = 0.01; SP p = 0.049). High interindividual variations were observed. No intra- or interindividual correlation of parameters with clinical course (e.g. chronification) or outcome was detectable.


Although clinically appearing as inflammation in acute stages, local rather than systemic inflammatory responses seem to be relevant in CRPS. Variable results from different studies might be explained by unpredictable intermittent release of mediators from local inflammatory processes into the blood combined with high interindividual variabilities. A clinically relevant difference to various control groups was not notable in this pilot study. Determination of systemic inflammatory parameters is not yet helpful in diagnostic and follow-up of CRPS I.

Full article here


Eur J Pain. 2012 Nov 7. doi: 10.1002/j.1532-2149.2012.00213.x. [Epub ahead of print]

Clinical evidence of parietal cortex dysfunction and correlation with extent of allodynia in CRPS type 1.

Cohen H, McCabe C, Harris N, Hall J, Lewis J, Blake DR.



Unusual symptoms such as digit misidentification and neglect-like phenomena have been reported in complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), which we hypothesized could be explained by parietal lobe dysfunction.


Twenty-two patients with chronic CRPS attending an in-patient rehabilitation programme underwent standard neurological examination followed by clinical assessment of parietal lobe function and detailed sensory testing.


Fifteen (68%) patients had evidence of parietal lobe dysfunction. Six (27%) subjects failed six or more test categories and demonstrated new clinical signs consistent with their parietal testing impairments, which were impacting significantly on activities of daily living. A higher incidence was noted in subjects with >1 limb involvement, CRPS affecting the dominant side and in left-handed subjects. Eighteen patients (82%) had mechanical allodynia covering 3-57.5% of the body surface area. Allochiria (unilateral tactile stimulation perceived only in the analogous location on the opposite limb), sensory extinction (concurrent bilateral tactile stimulation perceived only in one limb), referred sensations (unilateral tactile stimulation perceived concurrently in another discrete body area) and dysynchiria (unilateral non-noxious tactile stimulation perceived bilaterally as noxious) were present in some patients. Greater extent of body surface allodynia was correlated with worse parietal function (Spearman’s rho = -0.674, p = 0.001).


In patients with chronic CRPS, detailed clinical examination may reveal parietal dysfunction, with severity relating to the extent of allodynia.


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