Reflex sympathetic dystrophy in children. Clinical characteristics and follow-up of seventy patients

J Bone Joint Surg Am. 1992 Jul;74(6):910-9.


We report on the experience with our first seventy patients who had reflex sympathetic dystrophy and were less than eighteen years old (average age, 12.5 years). In our series, the patients were predominantly girls (male to female ratio, 11:59) and the lower extremity was involved most often (sixty-one of the seventy patients). The average time from the initial injury to the diagnosis was one year, which indicates that the syndrome remains under-recognized in patients in this age-group. Conservative treatment with physical therapy, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, psychological therapies including cognitive-behavioral management and relaxation training, and tricyclic anti-depressants was effective in improving the average scores for pain and function for forty patients. Sympathetic blocks were helpful for twenty-eight of thirty-seven patients. Thirty-eight of the seventy patients in the series continued to have some degree of residual pain and dysfunction. Reflex sympathetic dystrophy in children differs in presentation and clinical course from the syndrome in adults. It is best treated in a multidisciplinary fashion.

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms*
  • Antidepressive Agents, Tricyclic / therapeutic use
  • Autonomic Nerve Block
  • Child
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pain Measurement
  • Patient Care Team*
  • Physical Therapy Modalities / methods
  • Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy / diagnosis
  • Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy / therapy*
  • Transcutaneous Electric Nerve Stimulation


  • Antidepressive Agents, Tricyclic