Painful and painless peripheral sensory neuropathies due to HIV infection: a comparison using quantitative sensory evaluation

Pain. 1999 Mar;80(1-2):265-72. doi: 10.1016/s0304-3959(98)00227-9.


In order to characterize further, sensory disorders due to HIV-induced distal symmetrical polyneuropathy (DSPN), we compared quantitative sensory testing (QST) and electrodiagnostic parameters in patients presenting with painful or painless DSPN. Forty HIV patients with DSPN were studied and compared with ten seronegative control subjects: 15 patients presented with pains (spontaneous and/or evoked) in the lower limbs and 25 patients, matched for age, sex, duration of HIV and CD4 count, had non-painful symptoms (i.e. paresthesia). QST and nerve conduction studies (NCS) were performed on the lower limbs. von Frey hairs and a thermotest device were used to determine the mechanical- and thermal-, detection and pain thresholds. The responses elicited by suprathreshold thermal and mechanical stimuli were measured on a visual analog scale (VAS), to evaluate hyperalgesia. NCS were not significantly different between the two groups of patients. Thermal and mechanical detection thresholds, as well as the thermal pain threshold were significantly, and similarly, increased in both groups of patients as compared with the normal control subjects. Responses to suprathreshold thermal stimuli were similar in patients and control subjects. In contrast, mechanical pain thresholds were significantly decreased (mechanical allodynia) and responses to suprathreshold mechanical stimuli significantly increased (mechanical hyperalgesia) in the pain, but not in the painless patients. The intensity of mechanical allodynia/hyperalgesia was correlated with the intensity of spontaneous ongoing pain. We conclude that patients with DSPN are characterized by thermal, mechanical and electrophysiological deficits, suggestive of alterations in both small and large peripheral nerve fibers. Patients with a painful neuropathy present with static mechanical allodynia/hyperalgesia, suggestive of a selective alteration in the processing of mechanoreceptive signals, which might have a significant role in the pathophysiology of spontaneous and evoked pains in these patients.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / complications*
  • Action Potentials
  • Adult
  • Electrophysiology
  • Female
  • Hot Temperature
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neural Conduction
  • Neurons, Afferent / physiology
  • Pain / etiology
  • Pain / physiopathology*
  • Pain / psychology
  • Pain Measurement
  • Pain Threshold
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / etiology
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / psychology
  • Physical Stimulation