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Central sensitization: implications for the diagnosis and treatment of pain.

Brain

Animals, physiopathology, Spinal Cord, Pain Management, diagnosis, Pain, Neuronal Plasticity, Models, Neurological, Hyperalgesia, Humans

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      Abstract

      Nociceptor inputs can trigger a prolonged but reversible increase in the excitability and synaptic efficacy of neurons in central nociceptive pathways, the phenomenon of central sensitization. Central sensitization manifests as pain hypersensitivity, particularly dynamic tactile allodynia, secondary punctate or pressure hyperalgesia, aftersensations, and enhanced temporal summation. It can be readily and rapidly elicited in human volunteers by diverse experimental noxious conditioning stimuli to skin, muscles or viscera, and in addition to producing pain hypersensitivity, results in secondary changes in brain activity that can be detected by electrophysiological or imaging techniques. Studies in clinical cohorts reveal changes in pain sensitivity that have been interpreted as revealing an important contribution of central sensitization to the pain phenotype in patients with fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, musculoskeletal disorders with generalized pain hypersensitivity, headache, temporomandibular joint disorders, dental pain, neuropathic pain, visceral pain hypersensitivity disorders and post-surgical pain. The comorbidity of those pain hypersensitivity syndromes that present in the absence of inflammation or a neural lesion, their similar pattern of clinical presentation and response to centrally acting analgesics, may reflect a commonality of central sensitization to their pathophysiology. An important question that still needs to be determined is whether there are individuals with a higher inherited propensity for developing central sensitization than others, and if so, whether this conveys an increased risk in both developing conditions with pain hypersensitivity, and their chronification. Diagnostic criteria to establish the presence of central sensitization in patients will greatly assist the phenotyping of patients for choosing treatments that produce analgesia by normalizing hyperexcitable central neural activity. We have certainly come a long way since the first discovery of activity-dependent synaptic plasticity in the spinal cord and the revelation that it occurs and produces pain hypersensitivity in patients. Nevertheless, discovering the genetic and environmental contributors to and objective biomarkers of central sensitization will be highly beneficial, as will additional treatment options to prevent or reduce this prevalent and promiscuous form of pain plasticity. Copyright © 2010 International Association for the Study of Pain. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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      Most cited references 240

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        Persistent postsurgical pain: risk factors and prevention.

        Acute postoperative pain is followed by persistent pain in 10-50% of individuals after common operations, such as groin hernia repair, breast and thoracic surgery, leg amputation, and coronary artery bypass surgery. Since chronic pain can be severe in about 2-10% of these patients, persistent postsurgical pain represents a major, largely unrecognised clinical problem. Iatrogenic neuropathic pain is probably the most important cause of long-term postsurgical pain. Consequently, surgical techniques that avoid nerve damage should be applied whenever possible. Also, the effect of aggressive, early therapy for postoperative pain should be investigated, since the intensity of acute postoperative pain correlates with the risk of developing a persistent pain state. Finally, the role of genetic factors should be studied, since only a proportion of patients with intraoperative nerve damage develop chronic pain. Based on information about the molecular mechanisms that affect changes to the peripheral and central nervous system in neuropathic pain, several opportunities exist for multimodal pharmacological intervention. Here, we outline strategies for identification of patients at risk and for prevention and possible treatment of this important entity of chronic pain.
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          Central sensitization: a generator of pain hypersensitivity by central neural plasticity.

          Central sensitization represents an enhancement in the function of neurons and circuits in nociceptive pathways caused by increases in membrane excitability and synaptic efficacy as well as to reduced inhibition and is a manifestation of the remarkable plasticity of the somatosensory nervous system in response to activity, inflammation, and neural injury. The net effect of central sensitization is to recruit previously subthreshold synaptic inputs to nociceptive neurons, generating an increased or augmented action potential output: a state of facilitation, potentiation, augmentation, or amplification. Central sensitization is responsible for many of the temporal, spatial, and threshold changes in pain sensibility in acute and chronic clinical pain settings and exemplifies the fundamental contribution of the central nervous system to the generation of pain hypersensitivity. Because central sensitization results from changes in the properties of neurons in the central nervous system, the pain is no longer coupled, as acute nociceptive pain is, to the presence, intensity, or duration of noxious peripheral stimuli. Instead, central sensitization produces pain hypersensitivity by changing the sensory response elicited by normal inputs, including those that usually evoke innocuous sensations. In this article, we review the major triggers that initiate and maintain central sensitization in healthy individuals in response to nociceptor input and in patients with inflammatory and neuropathic pain, emphasizing the fundamental contribution and multiple mechanisms of synaptic plasticity caused by changes in the density, nature, and properties of ionotropic and metabotropic glutamate receptors.
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            Author and article information

            Journal
            20961685
            10.1016/j.pain.2010.09.030
            3268359

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