Early diagnosis in post-traumatic complex regional pain syndrome

Orthopedics. 2007 Jun;30(6):450-6. doi: 10.3928/01477447-20070601-01.


Since prospective studies confirmed an incidence of >10% of complex regional pain syndrome complication in patients after distal radial fracture, early diagnosis is important. Therapy should be commenced immediately with a systematic approach to avoid chronicity of the disease. Despite this, epidemiological studies revealed an extreme delay in effective treatment among complex regional pain syndrome patients, who were repeatedly referred to different physicians and often treated inadequately before being referred to specialized pain clinics. In post-traumatic patients, the clinical examination still is preferred to establish the diagnosis of complex regional pain syndrome. First, possible differential diagnoses must be excluded. Next the clinical criteria of the consensus definition should be checked and documented, if possible with the help of verifying procedures. Imaging methods could be applied; however, they are not useful for early diagnosis since sensitivity is low and the consequences of trauma may interfere with potential complex regional pain syndrome findings. In questionable cases repeated examinations after short periods detect the presence of complex regional pain syndrome in orthopedic patients, particularly if symptoms are progressive or an expected improvement does not occur.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Complex Regional Pain Syndromes / diagnosis*
  • Complex Regional Pain Syndromes / etiology
  • Electrodiagnosis
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Observer Variation
  • Postoperative Complications / diagnosis
  • Radionuclide Imaging
  • Wounds and Injuries / complications