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Post-stroke pain case study: clinical characteristics, therapeutic options and long-term follow-up


Per Hansson, Neurogenic Pain Unit Multidisciplinary Pain Center, Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, Karolinska Hospital, Stockholm, Sweden 17176 (tel.: +46 851 775435;
fax: +46 851 776641; e-mail:


Central post-stroke pain (CPSP) is a syndrome characterized by sensory disturbances and neuropathic pain. In 40%−60% of CPSP patients, the onset of central pain following a stroke occurs more than 1 month after the stroke, creating a source of diagnostic uncertainty or significant delay in treatment since healthcare providers familiar with CPSP may no longer be caring for the patient when the symptoms occur. In addition to chronic pain, the presence of somatosensory abnormalities is the most important diagnostic corollary of CPSP. Neuropathic or central pain has been estimated to occur in up to 8% of patients after a stroke, and about 18% of stroke patients with a somatosensory disturbance will develop CPSP. Although largely a matter of conjecture, it is generally agreed that damage to spinothalamic sensory pathways plays a significant role in the pathogenesis of CPSP. A comprehensive examination of the patient for sensory deficits is essential before treatment can be initiated. Functional disturbances such as depression, anxiety and sleep disturbances are significant comorbid conditions associated with CPSP; the physician should incorporate an assessment of these potential comorbidities into the examination. Treatment options for CPSP are limited; at present, amitriptyline is the drug of first choice. Other drugs including antidepressants, anticonvulsants, antiarrhythmics, opioids and N-methyl-d-aspartate antagonists may provide relief for some patients who do not respond to amitriptyline. Included in this review is a case study outlining the challenges of managing the patient with CPSP.