Abstract

Complex regional pain syndrome-type 1 (CRPS-1) is a problematic diagnosis of a characteristic burning pain that is present without stimulation or movement, occurs beyond the territory of a single peripheral nerve, and is disproportionate to the inciting event. This article highlights some challenging aspects of the diagnostic formulation for CRPS-1 by the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) and provides recommendations to address the issues. First, the terminology, CRPS-1, was created specifically to replace the previous term, “reflex sympathetic dystrophy.” Unfortunately, no gold standard diagnostic tests exist for CRPS-1, and the concept itself has a long and continuing history of controversy, not the least factor of which is the lack of reliable diagnostic schemes. Next, IASP's criteria for CRPS-1 do not standardize the diagnostic process and depart from epidemiologic guidelines, particularly regarding continuing pain, allodynia, or hyperalgesia disproportionate to any inciting event. Further, the IASP protocol overlaps diagnostic criteria for somatoform disorders, eg, those in the American Psychiatric Association's diagnostic manual, DSM-IV-TR. Finally, according to the IASP protocol, the majority of CRPS-1 patients present with symptoms that are indistinguishable from those in the DSM-IV-TR guidelines, and the majority of CRPS-1 cases are indistinguishable from the formal definition of malingering.

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