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Annals of Surgery:
doi: 10.1097/SLA.0b013e3182701a7b
Review

Surgically Induced Neuropathic Pain: Understanding the Perioperative Process

Borsook, David MD, PhD*; Kussman, Barry D. MD*; George, Edward MD, PhD; Becerra, Lino R. PhD*; Burke, Dennis W. MD

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Abstract

Nerve damage takes place during surgery. As a consequence, significant numbers (10%–40%) of patients experience chronic neuropathic pain termed surgically induced neuropathic pain (SNPP). The initiating surgery and nerve damage set off a cascade of events that includes both pain and an inflammatory response, resulting in “peripheral and central sensitization,” with the latter resulting from repeated barrages of neural activity from nociceptors. In affected patients, these initial events produce chemical, structural, and functional changes in the peripheral and central nervous systems (CNS). The maladaptive changes in damaged nerves lead to peripheral manifestations of the neuropathic state—allodynia, sensory loss, shooting pains, etc, that can manifest long after the effects of the surgical injury have resolved. The CNS manifestations that occur are termed “centralization of pain” and affect sensory, emotional, and other (eg, cognitive) systems as well as contributing to some of the manifestations of the chronic pain syndrome (eg, depression). Currently there are no objective measures of nociception and pain in the perioperative period. As such, intermittent or continuous pain may take place during and after surgery. New technologies including direct measures of specific brain function of nociception and new insights into preoperative evaluation of patients including genetic predisposition, appear to provide initial opportunities for decreasing the burden of SNPP, until treatments with high efficacy and low adverse effects that either prevent or treat pain are discovered.

© 2013 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.

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