Quantitative sensory testing after macroreplantation: evidence for a specific somatosensory profile

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A comprehensive functional recovery is one of the criteria for successful replantation of an amputated limb. Functionality of a replanted limb is strongly dependent on its regained sensibility. In previous studies concerning the sensibility of replanted limbs, only a few somatosensory submodalities were examined in small samples. The purpose of this study is to provide a full pattern of somatosensory symptoms after replantation. Quantitative sensory testing was performed according to a standardized protocol in a sample of 15 patients who underwent replantation of their upper limb proximal to the radiocarpal joint (macroreplantation). Results indicate that most of these patients showed a specific somatosensory profile characterized by thermal and mechanical hypoesthesia and hyperalgesia in response to pressure pain, whereas no single case of hyperalgesia to heat pain occurred. This distinct profile of impaired somatosensation shares some features of the somatosensory profile of neuropathic pain syndromes. Patients' limbs that were replanted many years before the present quantitative sensory testing showed more sensory deficits than patients with more recent replantations. This knowledge might be helpful in the development of more specific and more successful rehabilitation programs with replanted patients and improves the behavioral function of the replanted limb.

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