Complex Regional Pain Syndrome
How Is Complex Regional Pain Syndrome Diagnosed?
There is no specific diagnostic test for CRPS, but some testing can rule out other conditions. Triple-phase bone scans can be used to identify changes in the bone and in blood circulation. Some health care providers may apply a stimulus (for example, heat, touch, cold) to determine whether there is pain in a specific area.
Making a firm diagnosis of CRPS may be difficult early in the course of the disorder when symptoms are few or mild. CRPS is diagnosed primarily through observation of the following symptoms:
- The presence of an initial injury
- A higher-than-expected amount of pain from an injury
- A change in appearance of an affected area
- No other cause of pain or altered appearance
How Is Complex Regional Pain Syndrome Treated?
Because there is no cure for CRPS, the goal of treatment is to relieve painful symptoms associated with the disorder. Therapies used include psychotherapy, physical therapy, and drug treatment, such as topical analgesics, narcotics, corticosteroids, antidepressants and antiseizure drugs.
Other treatments include:
- Sympathetic nerve blocks: These blocks, which are done in a variety of ways, can provide significant pain relief for some people. One kind of block involves placing an anesthetic next to the spine to directly block the sympathetic nerves.
- Surgical sympathectomy: This controversial technique destroys the nerves involved in CRPS. Some experts believe it has a favorable outcome, while others feel it makes CRPS worse. The technique should be considered only for people whose pain is dramatically but temporarily relieved by selective sympathetic blocks.
- Intrathecal drug pumps: Pumps and implanted catheters are used to send pain-relieving medication into the spinal fluid.
- Spinal cord stimulation: This technique, in which electrodes are placed next to the spinal cord, offers relief for many people with the condition.