Predictors of Pain Relieving Response to Sympathetic Blockade in Complex Regional Pain Syndrome Type 1

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Abstract

Background:

Sympathetic blockade with local anesthetics is used frequently in the management of complex regional pain syndrome type 1(CRPS-1), with variable degrees of success in pain relief. The current study investigated which signs or symptoms of CRPS-1 could be predictive of outcome. The incidence of side effects and complications of sympathetic blockade also were determined prospectively.

Methods:

A prospective observational study was done of 49 patients with CRPS-1 in one extremity only and for less than 1-yr duration who had severe pain and persistent functional impairment with no response to standard treatment with medication and physical therapy.

Results:

Fifteen (31%) patients had good or moderate response. The response rate was not different in patient groups with cold or warm type CRPS-1 or in those with more or less than 1.5°C differential increase in skin temperature after sympathetic blockade. Allodynia and hypoesthesia were negative predictors for treatment success in CRPS-1. There were no symptoms or signs of CRPS-1 that positively predicted treatment success. A majority of patients (84%) experienced transient side effects such as headache, dysphagia, increased pain, backache, nausea, blurred vision, groin pain, hoarseness, and hematoma at the puncture site. No major complications were reported.

Conclusions:

The presence of allodynia and hypoesthesia are negative predictors for treatment success. The selection of sympathetic blockade as treatment for CRPS-1 should be balanced carefully between potential success and side effect ratio. The procedure is as likely to cause a transient increase in pain as a decrease in pain. Patients should be informed accordingly.

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