Neuropathic mechanisms in the pathophysiology of burns pruritus: redefining directions for therapy and research

J Burn Care Res. Jan-Feb 2013;34(1):82-93. doi: 10.1097/BCR.0b013e3182644c44.


Pruritus in burn wounds is a common symptom affecting patient rehabilitation. Over the last decades, there has been a resurgence of interest into more effective strategies to combat this distressing problem; nevertheless, no reports exist in the literature to propose pathophysiological mechanisms responsible for the generation and persistence of pruritic symptoms in the late phases of burns rehabilitation. Neuronal pathways mediating pruritic and painful stimuli share striking similarities, which allows the comparative exploration of the less extensively studied pruritic mechanisms using pain models. Furthermore, emerging anatomical, neurophysiological, and pharmacological evidence supports the involvement of neuropathic mechanisms in chronic burns pruritus. This work updates the conceptual framework for the pathophysiology of burns itch by embracing the contribution of the central nervous system in the maintenance of symptoms into a chronic state. The proposed pathophysiological model paves new avenues in burns pruritus research and is likely to have implications in the quest for more effective therapeutic regimens in clinical practice.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amines / therapeutic use
  • Antipruritics / therapeutic use
  • Burns / physiopathology*
  • Calcium Channel Blockers / therapeutic use
  • Cyclohexanecarboxylic Acids / therapeutic use
  • Gabapentin
  • Histamine Antagonists / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Neural Pathways / physiopathology
  • Neuralgia / physiopathology*
  • Neuralgia / therapy*
  • Neuropeptides / metabolism
  • Ondansetron / therapeutic use
  • Pruritus / physiopathology*
  • Pruritus / therapy*
  • Sensory Thresholds
  • Transcutaneous Electric Nerve Stimulation
  • Wound Healing / physiology*
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / therapeutic use


  • Amines
  • Antipruritics
  • Calcium Channel Blockers
  • Cyclohexanecarboxylic Acids
  • Histamine Antagonists
  • Neuropeptides
  • Ondansetron
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid
  • Gabapentin