Field research in humanitarian medical programmes. Treatment of neuropathic pain in Sierra Leone

Trans R Soc Trop Med Hyg. 2003 Nov-Dec;97(6):619-21. doi: 10.1016/s0035-9203(03)80049-4.


A pilot study was carried out among 223 war wounded and amputees in Sierra Leone in 2001 to investigate whether an intervention using proven medication for clinically diagnosed neuropathic pain would work in a developing country with limited health services. Compliance with medication was assessed in 79 patients and their pain and mood scores were assessed by questionnaire before medication and 6-10 months later. The pain and mood scores of 33 patients who stopped taking medication were compared for the initial and follow-up assessments indicating that, although the scores showed an improvement at follow-up, there was no significant improvement. Compliance was reasonable in 46 patients who continued with their medication, with 86.5% of possible doses collected although many had difficulty understanding how to take the drugs properly. Their pain and mood scores showed significant improvement at reassessment indicating that pain will be reduced with a longer duration of treatment. This study showed that it is possible to run an effective intervention for neuropathic pain in Sierra Leone with intermittent expert involvement and MSF have been able to develop a protocol for the assessment and treatment of neuropathic pain that may be useful in other difficult settings in which they work.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Amitriptyline / therapeutic use*
  • Amputees / psychology*
  • Analgesics, Non-Narcotic / therapeutic use*
  • Carbamazepine / therapeutic use*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain / drug therapy*
  • Pain Clinics
  • Pain Measurement
  • Patient Compliance
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Pilot Projects
  • Sierra Leone
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Wounds and Injuries / drug therapy*
  • Wounds and Injuries / psychology


  • Analgesics, Non-Narcotic
  • Amitriptyline
  • Carbamazepine