Neuropathic pain: redefinition and a grading system for clinical and research purposes

Neurology. 2008 Apr 29;70(18):1630-5. doi: 10.1212/01.wnl.0000282763.29778.59. Epub 2007 Nov 14.


Pain usually results from activation of nociceptive afferents by actually or potentially tissue-damaging stimuli. Pain may also arise by activity generated within the nervous system without adequate stimulation of its peripheral sensory endings. For this type of pain, the International Association for the Study of Pain introduced the term neuropathic pain, defined as "pain initiated or caused by a primary lesion or dysfunction in the nervous system." While this definition has been useful in distinguishing some characteristics of neuropathic and nociceptive types of pain, it lacks defined boundaries. Since the sensitivity of the nociceptive system is modulated by its adequate activation (e.g., by central sensitization), it has been difficult to distinguish neuropathic dysfunction from physiologic neuroplasticity. We present a more precise definition developed by a group of experts from the neurologic and pain community: pain arising as a direct consequence of a lesion or disease affecting the somatosensory system. This revised definition fits into the nosology of neurologic disorders. The reference to the somatosensory system was derived from a wide range of neuropathic pain conditions ranging from painful neuropathy to central poststroke pain. Because of the lack of a specific diagnostic tool for neuropathic pain, a grading system of definite, probable, and possible neuropathic pain is proposed. The grade possible can only be regarded as a working hypothesis, which does not exclude but does not diagnose neuropathic pain. The grades probable and definite require confirmatory evidence from a neurologic examination. This grading system is proposed for clinical and research purposes.

Publication types

  • Consensus Development Conference
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Diagnostic Imaging
  • Humans
  • Neuralgia / classification*
  • Neuralgia / diagnosis
  • Neuralgia / etiology
  • Neurologic Examination
  • Nociceptors / physiology
  • Pain Measurement
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / physiopathology
  • Severity of Illness Index*
  • Terminology as Topic