The clinical diagnosis of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) is a dichotomous (yes/no) categorization necessary for clinical decision-making. However, such dichotomous diagnostic categories do not convey an individual's subtle and temporal gradations in severity of the condition, and have poor statistical power when used as an outcome measure in research. This study evaluated the validity and potential utility of a continuous type score to index severity of CRPS. Psychometric and medical evaluations were conducted in 114 CRPS patients and 41 non-CRPS neuropathic pain patients. Based on the presence/absence of 17 clinically-assessed signs and symptoms of CRPS, an overall CRPS Severity Score (CSS) was derived. The CSS discriminated well between CRPS and non-CRPS patients (p<.001), and displayed strong associations with dichotomous CRPS diagnoses using both IASP diagnostic criteria (Eta=0.69) and proposed revised criteria (Eta=0.77-0.88). Higher CSS was associated with significantly higher clinical pain intensity, distress, and functional impairments, as well as greater bilateral temperature asymmetry and thermal perception abnormalities (p's<.05). In an archival prospective dataset, increases in anxiety and depression from pre-surgical baseline to 4 weeks post-knee arthroplasty were found to predict significantly higher CSS at 6- and 12-month follow-up (p's<.05). Results indicate the CSS corresponds with and complements currently accepted dichotomous diagnostic criteria for CRPS, and support its validity as an index of CRPS severity. Its utility as an outcome measure in research studies is also suggested, with potential statistical advantages over dichotomous diagnostic criteria.
Copyright © 2010. Published by Elsevier B.V.