Few studies have directly compared the clinical features of neuropathic and non-neuropathic pains. For this purpose, the French Neuropathic Pain Group developed a clinician-administered questionnaire named DN4 consisting of both sensory descriptors and signs related to bedside sensory examination. This questionnaire was used in a prospective study of 160 patients presenting with pain associated with a definite neurological or somatic lesion. The most common aetiologies of nervous lesions (n=89) were traumatic nerve injury, post herpetic neuralgia and post stroke pain. Non-neurological lesions (n=71) were represented by osteoarthritis, inflammatory arthropathies and mechanical low back pain. Each patient was seen independently by two experts in order to confirm the diagnosis of neuropathic or non-neuropathic pain. The prevalence of pain descriptors and sensory dysfunctions were systematically compared in the two groups of patients. The analysis of the psychometric properties of the DN4 questionnaire included: face validity, inter-rater reliability, factor analysis and logistic regression to identify the discriminant properties of items or combinations of items for the diagnosis of neuropathic pain. We found that a relatively small number of items are sufficient to discriminate neuropathic pain. The 10-item questionnaire developed in the present study constitutes a new diagnostic instrument, which might be helpful both in clinical research and daily practice.
Neuropathic pain is caused by a lesion or disease of the somatosensory system, including peripheral fibres (Aβ, Aδ and C fibres) and central neurons, and affects 7–10% of the general population. Multiple causes of neuropathic pain have been described and its incidence is likely to increase owing to the ageing global population, increased incidence of diabetes mellitus and improved survival from cancer after chemotherapy. Indeed, imbalances between excitatory and inhibitory somatosensory signalling, alterations in ion channels and variability in the way that pain messages are modulated in the central nervous system all have been implicated in neuropathic pain. The burden of chronic neuropathic pain seems to be related to the complexity of neuropathic symptoms, poor outcomes and difficult treatment decisions. Importantly, quality of life is impaired in patients with neuropathic pain owing to increased drug prescriptions and visits to health care providers, as well as the morbidity from the pain itself and the inciting disease. Despite challenges, progress in the understanding of the pathophysiology of neuropathic pain is spurring the development of new diagnostic procedures and personalized interventions, which emphasize the need for a multidisciplinary approach to the management of neuropathic pain.
This large national population-based study indicates that a significant proportion of chronic pain patients report neuropathic characteristics. We identified distinctive sociodemographic profile and clinical features indicating that chronic pain with neuropathic characteristics is a specific health problem.
This study describes the development and validation of the Neuropathic Pain Symptom Inventory (NPSI), a new self-questionnaire specifically designed to evaluate the different symptoms of neuropathic pain. Following a development phase and a pilot study, we generated a list of descriptors reflecting spontaneous ongoing or paroxysmal pain, evoked pain (i.e. mechanical and thermal allodynia/hyperalgesia) and dysesthesia/paresthesia. Each of these items was quantified on a (0-10) numerical scale. The validation procedure was performed in 176 consecutive patients with neuropathic pain of peripheral (n = 120) or central (n = 56) origin, recruited in five pain centers in France and Belgium. It included: (i) assessment of the test-retest reliability of each item, (ii) determination of the factorial structure of the questionnaire and analysis of convergent and divergent validities (i.e. construct validity), and (iii) evaluation of the ability of the NPSI to detect the effects of treatment (i.e. sensitivity to change). The final version of the NPSI includes 10 descriptors (plus two temporal items) that allow discrimination and quantification of five distinct clinically relevant dimensions of neuropathic pain syndromes and that are sensitive to treatment. The psychometric properties of the NPSI suggest that it might be used to characterize subgroups of neuropathic pain patients and verify whether they respond differentially to various pharmacological agents or other therapeutic interventions.
This is a revision of guidelines, originally published in 2004, for the assessment of patients with neuropathic pain. Neuropathic pain is defined as pain arising as a direct consequence of a lesion or disease affecting the somatosensory system either at peripheral or central level. Screening questionnaires are suitable for identifying potential patients with neuropathic pain, but further validation of them is needed for epidemiological purposes. Clinical examination, including accurate sensory examination, is the basis of neuropathic pain diagnosis. For more accurate sensory profiling, quantitative sensory testing is recommended for selected cases in clinic, including the diagnosis of small fiber neuropathies and for research purposes. Measurement of trigeminal reflexes mediated by A-beta fibers can be used to differentiate symptomatic trigeminal neuralgia from classical trigeminal neuralgia. Measurement of laser-evoked potentials is useful for assessing function of the A-delta fiber pathways in patients with neuropathic pain. Functional brain imaging is not currently useful for individual patients in clinical practice, but is an interesting research tool. Skin biopsy to measure the intraepidermal nerve fiber density should be performed in patients with clinical signs of small fiber dysfunction. The intensity of pain and treatment effect (both in clinic and trials) should be assessed with numerical rating scale or visual analog scale. For future neuropathic pain trials, pain relief scales, patient and clinician global impression of change, the proportion of responders (50% and 30% pain relief), validated neuropathic pain quality measures and assessment of sleep, mood, functional capacity and quality of life are recommended.
The redefinition of neuropathic pain as “pain arising as a direct consequence of a lesion or disease affecting the somatosensory system,” which was suggested by the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) Special Interest Group on Neuropathic Pain (NeuPSIG) in 2008, has been widely accepted. In contrast, the proposed grading system of possible, probable, and definite neuropathic pain from 2008 has been used to a lesser extent. Here, we report a citation analysis of the original NeuPSIG grading paper of 2008, followed by an analysis of its use by an expert panel and recommendations for an improved grading system. As of February, 2015, 608 eligible articles in Scopus cited the paper, 414 of which cited the neuropathic pain definition. Of 220 clinical studies citing the paper, 56 had used the grading system. The percentage using the grading system increased from 5% in 2009 to 30% in 2014. Obstacles to a wider use of the grading system were identified, including (1) questions about the relative significance of confirmatory tests, (2) the role of screening tools, and (3) uncertainties about what is considered a neuroanatomically plausible pain distribution. Here, we present a revised grading system with an adjusted order, better reflecting clinical practice, improvements in the specifications, and a word of caution that even the “definite” level of neuropathic pain does not always indicate causality. In addition, we add a table illustrating the area of pain and sensory abnormalities in common neuropathic pain conditions and propose areas for further research.
Different neuroplastic processes can occur along the nociceptive pathways and may be important in the transition from acute to chronic pain and for diagnosis and development of optimal management strategies. The neuroplastic processes may result in gain (sensitisation) or loss (desensitisation) of function in relation to the incoming nociceptive signals. Such processes play important roles in chronic pain, and although the clinical manifestations differ across condition processes, they share some common mechanistic features. The fundamental understanding and quantitative assessment of particularly some of the central sensitisation mechanisms can be translated from preclinical studies into the clinic. The clinical perspectives are implementation of such novel information into diagnostics, mechanistic phenotyping, prevention, personalised treatment, and drug development. The aims of this paper are to introduce and discuss (1) some common fundamental central pain mechanisms, (2) how they may translate into the clinical signs and symptoms across different chronic pain conditions, (3) how to evaluate gain and loss of function using quantitative pain assessment tools, and (4) the implications for optimising prevention and management of pain. The chronic pain conditions selected for the paper are neuropathic pain in general, musculoskeletal pain (chronic low back pain and osteoarthritic pain in particular), and visceral pain (irritable bowel syndrome in particular). The translational mechanisms addressed are local and widespread sensitisation, central summation, and descending pain modulation. Significance Central sensitisation is an important manifestation involved in many different chronic pain conditions. Central sensitisation can be different to assess and evaluate as the manifestations vary from pain condition to pain condition. Understanding central sensitisation may promote better profiling and diagnosis of pain patients and development of new regimes for mechanism based therapy. Some of the mechanisms underlying central sensitisation can be translated from animals to humans providing new options in development of therapies and profiling drugs under development.
More than 1100 patients with neuropathic pain were examined using quantitative sensory testing. Independent of the etiology, 3 subtypes with distinct sensory profiles were identified and replicated.
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