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Postherpetic Neuralgia: A Descriptive Analysis of Patients Seen in Pain Clinics
  1. C Lázaro, M.D.a,
  2. X Caseras, Ph.D.b,
  3. J. E. Baños, M.D.a,
  4. and the Catalonian Group for the Study of Postherpetic Neuralgia
  1. From the Department of Pharmacology, Therapeutics and Toxicology (C.L., J.E.B.)
  2. the Department of Psychiatry and Forensic Medicine (X.C.), Universitat Auto`noma de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain.
  1. Reprint requests: J. E. Baños, M.D., Department of Experimental and Health Sciences, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Dr Aiguader 80, Barcelona 08003, Spain. E-mail: jbanos{at}


Background and Objective Postherpetic neuralgia (PHN) is a common ailment that pain specialists must often cope with. The goal of the present survey is to investigate the pain characteristics of 119 PHN patients with persistent pain seen at different pain clinics. Methods information on demographic features, pain characteristics (MPQ-SV, VAS, VRS), and treatment was recorded by means of a standard case report form.

Results Gender, age, location, and treatment were consistent with previous reports. Antidepressant, antiepileptic, and analgesic drugs were the most commonly used by patients. The patients seen in pain clinics are probably a subset of severe cases of PHN, where delayed referral to these units plays an important role. The most frequent qualitative features of the disease were the McGill Pain Questionnaire-Spanish Version (MPQ-SV). These features may change in relation to illness evolution; electric shocklike pain and emotional distress were significantly higher after 6 months of evolution and age (those younger than 70 were more able to locate painful areas and to feel pain as pricking or sharp), and gender (men selected spatial pressure and traction pressure more frequently). None of the explored variables was relevant to predicting pain intensity.

Conclusions This study reveals a subset of patients, mostly suffering from long-term PHN, where pain persists. The most frequent qualitative traits of PHN patients are described. Some variables were involved in modulation of pain characteristics in these patients. The effect of study design in interpretation of results is discussed.

  • Epidemiology
  • McGill Pain Questionnaire
  • Pain clinics
  • Postherpetic neuralgia

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  • Supported by a contract grant between the Universitat Autónoma de Barcelona and Glaxo-Wellcome, España.