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Anesthesiology and Pain Management - Neurological Disorders - Neuroscience - Physiology

Somatosensory Profiles but Not Numbers of Somatosensory Abnormalities of Neuropathic Pain Patients Correspond with Neuropathic Pain Grading
Published: Wednesday, August 22, 2012
Author: Karl-Heinz Konopka et al.

by Karl-Heinz Konopka, Marten Harbers, Andrea Houghton, Rudie Kortekaas, Andre van Vliet, Wia Timmerman, Johan A. den Boer, Michel M. R. F. Struys, Marten van Wijhe

Due to the lack of a specific diagnostic tool for neuropathic pain, a grading system to categorize pain as ‘definite’, ‘probable’, ‘possible’ and ‘unlikely’ neuropathic was proposed. Somatosensory abnormalities are common in neuropathic pain and it has been suggested that a greater number of abnormalities would be present in patients with ‘probable’ and ‘definite’ grades. To test this hypothesis, we investigated the presence of somatosensory abnormalities by means of Quantitative Sensory Testing (QST) in patients with a clinical diagnosis of neuropathic pain and correlated the number of sensory abnormalities and sensory profiles to the different grades. Of patients who were clinically diagnosed with neuropathic pain, only 60% were graded as ‘definite’ or ‘probable’, while 40% were graded as ‘possible’ or ‘unlikely’ neuropathic pain. Apparently, there is a mismatch between a clinical neuropathic pain diagnosis and neuropathic pain grading. Contrary to the expectation, patients with ‘probable’ and ‘definite’ grades did not have a greater number of abnormalities. Instead, similar numbers of somatosensory abnormalities were identified for each grade. The profiles of sensory signs in ‘definite’ and ‘probable’ neuropathic pain were not significantly different, but different from the ‘unlikely’ grade. This latter difference could be attributed to differences in the prevalence of patients with a mixture of sensory gain and loss and with sensory loss only. The grading system allows a separation of neuropathic and non-neuropathic pain based on profiles but not on the total number of sensory abnormalities. Our findings indicate that patient selection based on grading of neuropathic pain may provide advantages in selecting homogenous groups for clinical research.