Objectives: Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is a chronic debilitating disease characterized by sensory abnormalities. Spinal cord stimulation (SCS) is an effective therapy for CRPS, but few studies have investigated the effects of SCS therapy on sensory characteristics. Therefore, this study investigated the effect of SCS on allodynia, hyperalgesia, electrical quantitative sensory testing (QST) parameters, and conditioned pain modulation (CPM) effect. Materials and Methods: This study is part of a multicenter randomized controlled trial (ISRCTN 36655259). Patients with CRPS in one extremity and eligible for SCS were included. The outcome parameters allodynia (symptom and sign), hyperalgesia (symptom), sensory thresholds with QST, CPM effect, and pain scores were tested before and after three months of SCS (40-Hz tonic SCS). Both the CRPS-affected extremity and the contralateral, clinically unaffected extremity were used to test three sensory thresholds with electrical QST: current perception threshold (CPT), pain perception threshold (PPT), and pain tolerance threshold (PTT). The PTT also was used as a test stimulus for the CPM paradigm both before and after the conditioning ice-water test. Nonparametric testing was used for all statistical analyses. Results: In total, 31 patients were included for analysis. Pain, allodynia (sign and symptom), and hyperalgesia (symptom) were all significantly reduced after SCS therapy. On the unaffected side, none of the QST thresholds (CPT, PPT, and PTT) was significantly altered after SCS therapy. However, the CPT on the CRPS-affected side was significantly increased after SCS therapy. A CPM effect was present both before and after SCS. Conclusions: Standard 40-Hz tonic SCS significantly reduces pain, hyperalgesia, and allodynia in patients with CRPS. These findings suggest that SCS therapy should not be withheld from patients who suffer from allodynia and hyperalgesia, which contradicts previous findings derived from retrospective analysis and animal research. ISRCTN Registry: The ISRCTN registration number for the study is ISRCTN 36655259.
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