Indexed on: 14 Jul '07Published on: 14 Jul '07Published in: Experimental Neurology
The mechanisms underlying central pain following spinal cord injury (SCI) are unsettled. The purpose of the present study was to examine differences in spinothalamic tract function below injury level and evoked pain in incomplete SCI patients with neuropathic pain below injury level (central pain) versus those without such pain. A clinical examination, quantitative sensory testing and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) were performed in 10 SCI patients with below-level pain and in 11 SCI patients without neuropathic pain. Patients with and without pain had similar reductions of mechanical and thermal detection thresholds below injury level. SCI patients with central pain had sensory hypersensitivity in dermatomes corresponding to the lesion level more frequently than SCI patients without pain, but this may in part be explained by the exclusion of at-level spontaneous pain in the pain-free group. The rostral-caudal extent of the lesion measured by MRI did not differ between the two patient groups, and there were no statistically significant differences in any of the predefined areas of interest on the axial plane images. This study suggests that neuronal hyperexcitability plays a key role in central SCI pain and furthermore - in contrast to previous findings - that loss of spinothalamic functions does not appear to be a predictor for central neuropathic pain in spinal cord injury.