1 Department of Clinical Medicine, The Faculty of Medicine, Aalborg University, VBN2 The Faculty of Medicine, Aalborg University, VBN3 Aalborg University Hospital, The Faculty of Medicine, Aalborg University, VBN4 Klinik Diagnostik, The Faculty of Medicine, Aalborg University, VBN5 Klinisk Fysiologi og Nuklearmedicin, The Faculty of Medicine, Aalborg University, VBN6 Institut for Klinisk Medicin - Dansk Smerteforskningscenter7 unknown
Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is characterised by autonomic, sensory, and motor disturbances. The underlying mechanisms of the autonomic changes in CPRS are unknown. However, it has been postulated that sympathetic inhibition in the acute phase with locally reduced levels of noradrenaline is followed by an up-regulation of alpha-adrenoceptors in chronic CRPS leading to denervation supersensitivity to catecholamines. This exploratory study examined the effect of cutaneous sympathetic activation and inhibition on cutaneous noradrenaline release, vascular reactivity, and pain in CRPS patients and in healthy volunteers. Seven patients and nine controls completed whole-body cooling (sympathetic activation) and heating (sympathetic inhibition) induced by a whole-body thermal suit with simultaneous measurement of the skin temperature, skin blood flow, and release of dermal noradrenaline. CRPS pain and the perceived skin temperature were measured every 5min during thermal exposure, while noradrenaline was determined from cutaneous microdialysate collected every 20min throughout the study period. Cooling induced peripheral sympathetic activation in patients and controls with significant increases in dermal noradrenaline, vasoconstriction, and reduction in skin temperature. The main findings were that the noradrenaline response did not differ between patients and controls or between the CRPS hand and the contralateral unaffected hand, suggesting that the evoked noradrenaline release from the cutaneous sympathetic postganglionic fibres is preserved in chronic CRPS patients.