Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is a chronic condition that involves significant hyperalgesia of the affected limb, typically accompanied by localized autonomic abnormalities and frequently by motor dysfunction. Although central brain systems are thought to play a role in the development and maintenance of CRPS, these systems have not been well characterized. In this study, we used structural magnetic resonance imaging to characterize differences in gray matter volume between patients with right upper extremity CRPS and matched controls. Analyses were carried out using a whole brain voxel-based morphometry approach. The CRPS group showed decreased gray matter volume in several pain-affect regions, including the dorsal insula, left orbitofrontal cortex, and several aspects of the cingulate cortex. Greater gray matter volume in CRPS patients was seen in the bilateral dorsal putamen and right hypothalamus. Correlation analyses with self-reported pain were then performed on the CRPS group. Pain duration was associated with decreased gray matter in the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. Pain intensity was positively correlated with volume in the left posterior hippocampus and left amygdala, and negatively correlated with the bilateral dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. Our findings demonstrate that CRPS is associated with abnormal brain system morphology, particularly pain-related sensory, affect, motor, and autonomic systems.
Perspective: This paper presents structural changes in the brains of patients with CRPS, helping us differentiate CRPS from other chronic pain syndromes and furthering our understanding of this challenging disease.
Keywords: Voxel-based morphometry; chronic pain; complex regional pain syndrome; neuroimaging.
Copyright © 2014 American Pain Society. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.