Complex regional pain syndrome in children: Asking the right questions
BACKGROUND: Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is a painful disorder without a known unifying mechanism. There are little data on which to base evaluation and treatment decisions, and what data are available come from studies involving adults; however, even that literature is relatively sparse. Developing robust research for CRPS in children is essential for the progress toward optimal treatment.
OBJECTIVES: To determine potential avenues of research in pediatric CRPS based on a review of the literature. Areas of concern include diagnostic criteria, peripheral mechanisms, central nervous system mechanisms, the role of the autonomic nervous system, possible risk factors, options for prevention and potential avenues of treatment.
METHODS: A literature review was performed and the results applied to form the hypotheses posited in the form of research questions.
RESULTS AND CONCLUSIONS: CRPS is a complicated entity that is more than a painful sensory condition. There is evidence for peripheral inflammatory and neurological changes, and reorganization in both sensory and motor cortexes. In addition, a significant motor component is frequently observed and there appear to be tangible risk factors. Many of these pieces of evidence suggest options for prevention, treatment and monitoring progress and outcome. Most of the data are derived from adult studies and need to be replicated in children. Furthermore, there may be factors unique to pediatrics due to developmental changes in neuroplasticity as well as somatic, endocrinological and emotional growth. Some of these developmental factors may shed light on the adult condition.