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Papers: 9 Mar 2024 - 15 Mar 2024

2024 Apr 01





Pain in the Context of Sensory Deafferentation.


Cohen SP, Caterina MJ, Yang SY, Socolovsky M, Sommer C


Pain that accompanies deafferentation is one of the most mysterious and misunderstood medical conditions. Prevalence rates for the assorted conditions vary considerably but the most reliable estimates are greater than 50% for strokes involving the somatosensory system, brachial plexus avulsions, spinal cord injury, and limb amputation, with controversy surrounding the mechanistic contributions of deafferentation to ensuing neuropathic pain syndromes. Deafferentation pain has also been described for loss of other body parts (e.g., eyes and breasts) and may contribute to between 10% and upwards of 30% of neuropathic symptoms in peripheral neuropathies. There is no pathognomonic test or sign to identify deafferentation pain, and part of the controversy surrounding it stems from the prodigious challenges in differentiating cause and effect. For example, it is unknown whether cortical reorganization causes pain or is a byproduct of pathoanatomical changes accompanying injury, including pain. Similarly, ascertaining whether deafferentation contributes to neuropathic pain, or whether concomitant injury to nerve fibers transmitting pain and touch sensation leads to a deafferentation-like phenotype can be clinically difficult, although a detailed neurologic examination, functional imaging, and psychophysical tests may provide clues. Due in part to the concurrent morbidities, the physical, psychologic, and by extension socioeconomic costs of disorders associated with deafferentation are higher than for other chronic pain conditions. Treatment is symptom-based, with evidence supporting first-line antineuropathic medications such as gabapentinoids and antidepressants. Studies examining noninvasive neuromodulation and virtual reality have yielded mixed results.