Tactile allodynia in patients with postherpetic neuralgia : Lack of change in skin blood flow upon dynamic stimulation

Marie Besson, Peter Brook, Boris Andreyevich Chizh*, Anthony Edward Pickering

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


Tactile allodynia is a common, troublesome feature of neuropathic pain. Allodynia has been proposed to involve abnormal Aβ-afferent coupling in the dorsal horn resulting in C-fibre activation and increased skin blood flow (SBF). Thus, changes in SBF could provide an objective measure of allodynia. We searched for this mechanism in patients with postherpetic neuralgia (PHN) with varying degrees of cutaneous sensory loss. We mapped the allodynic area in PHN patients using cotton buds and von Frey hairs. Quantitative thermal testing was performed to assess small fibre function in the affected and mirror-image areas. At a subsequent visit the area of allodynia was remapped. Then the SBF in the affected and control areas was quantified before and after allodynic stimulation using laser Doppler imaging and subsequent single point continuous monitoring to detect rapid changes. We enrolled 10 PHN patients (medians: age 77 yrs, duration 20 months, ongoing pain 5). The allodynic area (range 11-546 cm 2) was stable across the sessions. Thermal testing showed similar (n=5) or reduced (n=5) warmth and pain sensation in the affected versus control area. Following allodynic stimulation (median evoked pain-5) we saw no changes in SBF using either imaging (repeated measures ANOVA, P=0.73) or single point monitoring. This was the case for all patients regardless of the degree of sensory impairment in the affected dermatome. In conclusion, in a representative population of PHN patients we found no evidence of changes in SBF in response to allodynic stimulation. Hence, SBF measurements are not suitable for assessing allodynia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)154-191
Number of pages38
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2005


  • Cutaneous blood flow
  • Neuropathic pain
  • Postherpetic neuraliga
  • Tactile allodynia

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