Background and aims: Pain is the primary symptom of chronic pancreatitis (CP), but methods for sensory testing and pain characterization have not previously been validated for clinical use. We present a clinically feasible method for the assessment and characterization of pain mechanisms in patients with CP based on quantitative sensory testing (QST). Methods: This was a cross-sectional, multicenter study of 122 control subjects without pancreatic disease and another 60 patients with painful CP. All subjects underwent standardized QST assessments including a cold pressor test, a conditioned pain modulation paradigm, repetitive pin-prick stimuli (temporal summation) and pressure stimulation of the upper abdominal (pancreatic) and control dermatomes. The effects of age and gender on QST assessment parameters were investigated and normative reference values based on quartile regression were derived and implemented in algorithms to categorize patients according to their patterns of central pain processing (normal vs. segmental sensitization vs. widespread sensitization). Results: Absolute pressure thresholds were subject to clinically relevant gender effects (all p < 0.001), while the remainder of QST parameters were unaffected by age and gender. The algorithm with the best discriminatory capacity showed good separation between patients and controls (p < 0.001); 50% of patients had normal central pain processing, 23% had evidence of segmental sensitization and 27% had evidence of widespread sensitization. Conclusion: We show normative reference values for a clinically feasible method for assessment and characterization of pain mechanisms in patients with CP. Application of this method streamlines the evaluation of pancreatic pain and may be used to inform treatment. Clinicaltrials.gov id: NCT03434392.
- Central sensitization
- Chronic pancreatitis
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism