What is complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS)?

Updated: Nov 08, 2018
  • Author: Steven J Parrillo, DO, FACOEP, FACEP; Chief Editor: Andrew K Chang, MD, MS  more...
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Reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome (RSDS) has been recognized since the Civil War when it was called causalgia, a name chosen to describe intense, burning extremity pain after an injury. Since then, RSDS has had a number of name changes. Bonica coined the term reflex sympathetic dystrophy in 1953. The American Association of Hand Surgery proposed changing the name to sympathetic maintained pain syndrome. A consensus expert panel recommended a change to complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS). However, although many clinicians still use the term RSDS, the terms currently in favor are complex regional pain syndrome I (the equivalent of RSD) and complex regional pain syndrome II, also known as causalgia.

CRPS/RSDS has readily identifiable signs and symptoms and is treatable if recognized early; however, the syndrome may become disabling if unrecognized. [1] Emergency physicians are frequently in a position to identify the problem and may play a significant role in minimizing impact of this common entity.

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