Microvascular Perfusion Abnormalities of the Thalamus in Painful but Not Painless Diabetic Polyneuropathy: A clue to the pathogenesis of pain in type 1 diabetes

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OBJECTIVEThe pathogenesis of painful diabetic neuropathy (DN) remains undetermined, with both central and peripheral mechanisms implicated. This study investigates whether thalamic perfusion abnormalities occur in painful DN.RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODSEighteen subjects with type 1 diabetes (no DN = 6, painful DN = 5, painless DN = 7) and six healthy volunteers (HV) were recruited. Microvascular perfusion characteristics (relative cerebral blood volume [rCBV], flow [rCBF], and transit time [ttFM]) of the thalamus and caudate nucleus were assessed using magnetic resonance perfusion imaging. The caudate nucleus was chosen to serve as an in vivo control region.RESULTSSubjects with painful DN had significantly greater thalamic rCBV (means [SD]; painful DN, 228.7 [19.5]; no DN, 202.3 [25.8]; painless DN, 216.5 [65.5]; HV, 181.9 [51.7]; P = 0.04) and the longest ttFM(s) (painful DN, 38.4 [3.6]; no DN, 35.3 [13.2]; painless DN, 35.9 [13.7]; HV, 33.7 [14.9]; P = 0.07). There was no significant difference in markers of caudate nucleus perfusion.CONCLUSIONSPainful DN is associated with increased thalamic vascularity. This may provide an important clue to the pathogenesis of pain in DN.

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