Local cytokine changes were analyzed in CRPS I patients. TNF-α, MIP-1β, and IL-1RA were changed bilaterally but returned to the level of non-CRPS patients after 6 months.
There is evidence that inflammatory processes are involved in at least the early phase of complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS). We compared a panel of pro- and antiinflammatory cytokines in skin blister fluids and serum from patients with CRPS and patients with upper-limb pain of other origin (non-CRPS) in the early stage (< 1 year) and after 6 months of pain treatment. Blister fluid was collected from the affected and contralateral nonaffected side. We used a multiplex-10 bead array cytokine assay and Luminex technology to measure protein concentrations of the cytokines interleukin-1 receptor antagonist (IL-1RA), IL-2, IL-6, IL-8, IL-10, IL-12p40, and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α) and the chemokines eotaxin, monocyte chemotactic protein-1 (MCP-1), and macrophage inflammatory protein-1β (MIP-1β). We found bilaterally increased proinflammatory TNF-α and MIP-1β and decreased antiinflammatory IL-1RA protein levels in CRPS patients compared to non-CRPS patients. Neither group showed side differences. After 6 months under analgesic treatment, protein levels of all measured cytokines in CRPS patients, except for IL-6, significantly changed bilaterally to the level of non-CRPS patients. These changes were not related to treatment outcome. In serum, only IL-8, TNF-α, eotaxin, MCP-1, and MIP-1β were detectable without intergroup differences. Blister fluid of CRPS patients showed a bilateral proinflammatory cytokine profile. This profile seems to be relevant only at the early stage of CRPS. Almost all measured cytokine levels were comparable to those of non-CRPS patients after 6 months of analgesic treatment and were not related to treatment outcome.