Treatment of Neuropathic Pain: An Overview of Recent Guidelines

  • Alec B. O'Connor
    Requests for reprints should be addressed to Alec B. O'Connor, MD, MPH, Department of Medicine, University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, Box MED/HMD, 601 Elmwood Avenue, Rochester, New York 14642
    Department of Medicine, University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, Rochester, New York, USA
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  • Robert H. Dworkin
    Departments of Anesthesiology and Neurology, University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, Rochester, New York, USA
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      A number of different treatments for neuropathic pain have been studied, but the literature is sizable, rapidly evolving, and lacks important information about practical aspects of patient management. Under the auspices of the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) Neuropathic Pain Special Interest Group (NeuPSIG), a consensus process was used to develop evidence-based guidelines for the pharmacologic management of neuropathic pain that take into account clinical efficacy, adverse effects, impact on health-related quality of life, convenience, and costs. On the basis of randomized clinical trials, medications recommended as first-line treatments for neuropathic pain included certain antidepressants (i.e., tricyclic antidepressants and dual reuptake inhibitors of both serotonin and norepinephrine), calcium channel α2-δ ligands (i.e., gabapentin and pregabalin), and topical lidocaine. Opioid analgesics and tramadol were recommended as second-line treatments that can be considered for first-line use in selected clinical circumstances. Other medications that generally would be used as third-line treatments include certain other antidepressant and antiepileptic medications, topical capsaicin, mexiletine, and N-methyl-d-aspartate receptor antagonists. Two other national and international associations recently published pharmacologic treatment guidelines for neuropathic pain, which are summarized and contrasted with the NeuPSIG recommendations. Recent guidelines for the use of neurostimulation for the treatment of neuropathic pain also are summarized. For all treatments for neuropathic pain, long-term studies, head-to-head comparisons, and studies of treatment combinations are a priority for future research.


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