Journal of Neurology

, Volume 253, Issue 6, pp 772-779

Mislocalization of tactile stimulation in patients with complex regional pain syndrome

  • Ch. MaihöfnerAffiliated withDepartment of Neurology, University of Erlangen-NurembergInstitute for Physiology and Experimental Pathophysiology, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg Email author 
  • , B. NeundörferAffiliated withDepartment of Neurology, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg
  • , F. BirkleinAffiliated withDepartment of Neurology, University of Mainz
  • , H. O. HandwerkerAffiliated withDepartment of Neurology, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg

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Complex–Regional–Pain–Syndromes (CRPS) are characterized by sensory,motor and autonomic dysfunctions. Patterns of sensory symptoms suggest changes within the central nervous system (CNS). Recently, we could show substantial reorganization of somatotopic maps within the central nervous system of patients with CRPS using functional imaging techniques (Maihofner et al. Neurology, 2003). These changes were predicted by CRPS pain and mechanical hyperalgesia. In the present study we looked for potential psychophysical correlates of cortical reorganization in CRPS. Sequential pneumatic non–noxious tactile stimulation was performed at digits 1 and 5 in 24 patients with CRPS of the upper extremities. Both the unaffected and affected side were examined. Patients were interviewed for tactile induced sensations. The occurrence of mislocalizations was correlated with a detailed psychophysical examination in which sensory, motor and autonomic symptoms were assessed. Eight patients (30 %) reported tactile mislocalizations, which were felt in the affected hand. In four cases the referred sensations spread into other nerve territories (ulnar/median nerve). Presence of mechanical hyperalgesia significantly predicted the occurrence of mislocalizations. In contrast, in a healthy control group, no mislocalizations were found. Thus, our results further support the concept of pain–induced reorganization in the somatosensory system of CRPS patients.

Key words

complex regional pain syndrome CRPS pain neuropathic pain plasticity