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Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is a chronic pain disorder. Although its pathophysiology is not completely understood, neurogenic inflammation is thought to play a significant role. Microglia and astrocytes are activated following tissue injury or inflammation and have been reported to be both necessary and sufficient for enhanced nociception. Blood-borne monocytes/macrophages can infiltrate the central nervous system (CNS) and differentiate into microglia resulting in hypersensitivity and chronic pain. The primary aim of this study was to evaluate the proportion of the proinflammatory CD14+CD16+ monocytes as well as plasma cytokine levels in blood from CRPS patients compared to age- and gender-matched healthy control individuals. Forty-six subjects (25 CRPS, 21 controls) were recruited for this study. The percentage of monocytes, T, B or natural killer (NK) cells did not differ between CRPS and controls. However, the percentage of the CD14+CD16+ monocyte/macrophage subgroup was elevated significantly (P < 0·01) in CRPS compared to controls. Individuals with high percentage of CD14+CD16+ demonstrated significantly lower (P < 0·05) plasma levels on the anti-inflammatory cytokine interleukin (IL)-10. Our data cannot determine whether CD14+CD16+ monocytes became elevated prior to or after developing CRPS. In either case, the elevation of blood proinflammatoty monocytes prior to the initiating event may predispose individuals for developing the syndrome whereas the elevation of blood proinflammatory monocytes following the development of CRPS may be relevant for its maintenance. Further evaluation of the role the immune system plays in the pathogenesis of CRPS may aid in elucidating disease mechanisms as well as the development of novel therapies for its treatment.