This site is intended for healthcare professionals

Go to /sign-in page

You can view 5 more pages before signing in


Last reviewed dd mmm yyyy. Last edited dd mmm yyyy

Authoring team

Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is also known as Sudek's atrophy and reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD). It describes the presence of regional pain after a harmful event. The symptoms and signs - usually in the limbs - are excessively severe and inappropriately prolonged given the magnitude of the original injury. Autonomic, sensory and motor features may be present.

Complex regional pain syndrome is a chronic pain condition characterized by autonomic and inflammatory features.

  • occurs acutely in about 7% of patients who have limb fractures, limb surgery, or other injuries
  • often will resolve within the first year - a smaller subset of patients progress to the chronic form
    • the transition from acute to chronic form is often paralleled by a change from "warm complex regional pain syndrome," with inflammatory characteristics dominant, to "cold complex regional pain syndrome" in which autonomic features dominate
  • multiple peripheral and central mechanisms seem to be involved
    • possible contributors include peripheral and central sensitization, autonomic changes and sympatho-afferent coupling, inflammatory and immune alterations, brain changes, and genetic and psychological factors

It is a major cause of disability with only one in five sufferers able to fully resume prior activities. The earlier a diagnosis is made and treatment is commenced, the better the prognosis.

Effective management of chronic form of this condition is often challenging.


Related pages

Create an account to add page annotations

Add information to this page that would be handy to have on hand during a consultation, such as a web address or phone number. This information will always be displayed when you visit this page