Proposed New Diagnostic Criteria for Complex Regional Pain Syndrome


R. Norman Harden, MD, Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, Center for Pain Studies, 446 E. Ontario, Suite 1011, Chicago, IL 60611, USA. Tel: 312-310-2333; Fax: 312-238-7624; E-mail:


This topical update reports recent progress in the international effort to develop a more accurate and valid diagnostic criteria for complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS). The diagnostic entity of CRPS (published in the International Association for the Study of Pain’s Taxonomy monograph in 1994; International Association for the Study of Pain [IASP]) was intended to be descriptive, general, and not imply etiopathology, and had the potential to lead to improved clinical communication and greater generalizability across research samples. Unfortunately, realization of this potential has been limited by the fact that these criteria were based solely on consensus and utilization of the criteria in the literature has been sporadic at best. As a consequence, the full potential benefits of the IASP criteria have not been realized. Consensus-derived criteria that are not subsequently validated may lead to over- or underdiagnosis, and will reduce the ability to provide timely and optimal treatment. Results of validation studies to date suggest that the IASP/CRPS diagnostic criteria are adequately sensitive; however, both internal and external validation research suggests that utilization of these criteria causes problems of overdiagnosis due to poor specificity. This update summarizes the latest international consensus group’s action in Budapest, Hungary to approve and codify empirically validated, statistically derived revisions of the IASP criteria for CRPS.