Phantom limb pain: a report of two cases.
Töpfner S., Wiech K., Kiefer RT., Unertl K., Birbaumer N.
The efficacy of pre-emptive analgesia for phantom limb pain is still unclear. It is generally accepted that pre hyphen;amputation pain increases the incidence of phantom and stump pain, even if pre-emptive analgesia is performed before and during surgery and in the postoperative period. Two cases of traumatic upper limb amputations are described here with no pre-existing pain. Both received similar antinociceptive treatment by continuous block of the brachial plexus through infusion of ropivacaine 0.375% at 5 ml/h for 10 days. Treatment of case 1 was initiated immediately after surgery; however, this amputee developed intensive phantom limb pain which persisted at 6 months. Early use of the prosthesis after surgery was not possible for this patient. The intensity of phantom limb pain in case 2 decreased significantly after 6 months, even though brachial plexus blockade was not started until 5 weeks post-trauma. This patient used a functional prosthesis intensively beginning early after amputation. Serial magnetoencephalographic recordings were performed in both patients. Only case 2 showed significant changes of cortical reorganization. In case 1 markedly less cortical plasticity was found. A combination of relevant risk factors such as a painful neuroma, behavioural and cognitive coping strategies and the early functional use of prostheses are discussed as important mechanisms contributing to the development of phantom pain and cortical reorganization.