Abstract: Functional abnormalities of the cervical cord and lower medulla and their effect on pain: observations in chronic pain patients with incidental mild Chiari I malformation and moderate to severe cervical cord compression

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Thimineur M, Kitaj M, Kravitz E, Kalizewski T, Sood P.  Comprehensive Pain and Headache Treatment Centers, LLC, Bridgeport, Derby, CT 06418, USA. mthimineur@aol.com

OBJECTIVE: Abnormalities of central sensory processing may play a role in the pathogenesis of chronic pain. The Chiari I malformation is a congenital hindbrain anomaly characterized by protrusion of the cerebellar tonsils into the upper cervical canal, with variable effects on the lower brain stem and cervical cord. The purpose of this study was to compare sensory function and pain among patients with chronic pain who had these disorders incidentally diagnosed, to assess the effect on pain in these patients in comparison with those without central nervous system disease.

DESIGN: Retrospective study in which pain, mood, and sensory function in 32 patients with chronic pain who had mild Chiari I malformation were compared with that in 53 patients with chronic pain who had moderate to severe compression of the cervical spinal cord and 52 patients with chronic pain who had no apparent central nervous system disorder. Data had been collected previously as part of standard clinical assessments, including clinical neurological examinations, quantitative sensory testing, pain drawings, and psychometric testing with the Symptom Checklist 90.

PATIENTS: All subjects were patients of a hospital-based pain management practice who had been accepted for treatment over a 5-year period.

RESULTS: Both the Chiari I and cervical compression groups had long tract signs evident on clinical neurological examination. Quantitative sensory testing indicated elevations in the trigeminal territory among patients with Chiari I malformation and on the neck, hands, and feet in both the Chiari I and cervical compression groups. The extent of pain and mood disturbance was greatest in the Chiari I group and least in the group with no central nervous system disorder. Complex regional pain syndrome, fibromyalgia, and temporal mandibular joint disorder were more common among the Chiari I malformation group than among the other groups.

CONCLUSIONS: Quantitative sensory analysis indicates sensory dysfunction associated with Chiari I malformation and cervical cord compression. The pattern of sensory abnormality is consistent with medullary dysfunction among the patients with Chiari I malformation and cervical cord dysfunction among cord compression patients. There were differences in the types and extent of pain and the associated disorders of mood observed among the cohorts defined above. These differences may be partly due to the presence and location of central sensory dysfunction.

PMID: 12048419 [PubMed – in process]

Source: Clin J Pain 2002 May-Jun;18(3):171-9

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