BACKGROUND: Deep pain complaints are more frequent than cutaneous in post-surgical patients, and a prevalent finding in quantitative sensory testing studies. However, the preferred assessment method - pressure algometry - is indirect and tissue unspecific, hindering advances in treatment and preventive strategies. Thus, there is a need for development of methods with direct stimulation of suspected hyperalgesic tissues to identify the peripheral origin of nociceptive input. METHODS: We compared the reliability of an ultrasound-guided needle stimulation protocol of electrical detection and pain thresholds to pressure algometry, by performing identical test-retest sequences 10 days apart, in deep tissues in the groin region. Electrical stimulation was performed by five up-and-down staircase series of single impulses of 0.04 ms duration, starting from 0 mA in increments of 0.2 mA until a threshold was reached and descending until sensation was lost. Method reliability was assessed by Bland-Altman plots, descriptive statistics, coefficients of variance and intraclass correlation coefficients. RESULTS: The electrical stimulation method was comparable to pressure algometry regarding 10 days test-retest repeatability, but with superior same-day reliability for electrical stimulation (P < 0.05). Between-subject variance rather than within-subject variance was the main source for test variation. There were no systematic differences in electrical thresholds across tissues and locations (P > 0.05). CONCLUSION: The presented tissue-specific direct deep tissue electrical stimulation technique has equal or superior reliability compared with the indirect tissue-unspecific stimulation by pressure algometry. This method may facilitate advances in mechanism based preventive and treatment strategies in acute and chronic post-surgical pain states.
Acta Anaesthesiologica Scandinavica, 2014, Vol 58, Issue 8, p. 986-996
Controlled Clinical Trial; Journal Article; Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't