Progress in Sympathetically Mediated Pathological Pain

Si-Si Chen , Jun-Ming Zhang
Pain Research Center, Department of Anesthesiology, University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, Cincinnati, USA
J Anesth Perioper Med 2015; 2(4): 216- 225 . Published on Jun 6, 2015 . doi:10.24015/JAPM.2015.0029
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Aim of review: Many chronic pain conditions remain difficult to treat, presenting a high burden to society. Conditions such as complex regional pain syndrome may be maintained or exacerbated by sympathetic activity. Understanding the interactions between sympathetic nervous system and sensory system will help to improve the effective management of pathological pain including intractable neuropathic pain and persistent inflammatory pain. 

Method: We first described the discovery of abnormal connections between sympathetic and sensory neurons. Subsequently, the functional roles of sympathetic sprouting in altered neuronal excitability and increased pain sensitivity were discussed. The mechanisms of the sympathetic sprouting were focusing on its relationship with neurotrophins, local inflammation, and abnormal spontaneous activity. Finally, we discussed clinical implications and conflicting findings in the laboratory and clinical research with respect to the interaction between sympathetic system and sensory system.

Recent findings: The findings that sprouting of sympathetic fibers into the sensory ganglia (dorsal root ganglion) after peripheral nerve injury, offers a possible explanation of the sympathetic involvement in pain. It is also suggested that releases of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), in addition to norepinephrine, from sympathetic nerve endings play important roles in sympathetic-mediated pain. New evidence indicates the importance of sympathetic innervation in local inflammatory responses.

Summary: Hopefully, this review will reinvigorate the study of sympathetic-sensory interactions in chronic pain conditions, and help to better understand how sympathetic system contributes to this serious clinical problem.



Citation: Si-Si Chen, Jun-Ming Zhang. Progress in sympathetically mediated pathological pain. J Anesth Perioper Med 2015; 2: 216-25. doi: 10.24015/JAPM.2015.0029

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