What causes complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS)?

Updated: Jun 20, 2018
  • Author: Gaurav Gupta, MD; Chief Editor: Stephen A Berman, MD, PhD, MBA  more...
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Answer

Most often, CRPS type I is initiated by trauma to an extremity. Such injuries account for more than 90% of patients with CRPS type I.

  • Injuries precipitating the development of CRPS, in order of decreasing frequency, are as follows: (1) sprain/strain, (2) surgical wounds, (3) fractures, (4) contusion/crush injury, and (5) rarely, other injuries such as venipuncture, lacerations, burns, inflammatory processes, electric shock, and spinal cord injuries.

  • Spontaneous cases/unknown causes account for approximately 5% of patients and may be explained by minor injuries that have been forgotten.

  • Unusual, disputed precipitating events include visceral lesions, CNS lesions (eg, strokes, tumors, brain injury, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, meningitis, syringomyelia), peripheral vascular bypass procedures, arteriovenous grafts for hemodialysis, carpal tunnel surgery, and spinal cord injury.


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