Reflex sympathetic dystrophy treated with gabapentin

Gary A. Mellick, Larry B. Mellick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

193 Scopus citations


The use of the recently released anticonvulsant, gabapentin (Neurontin), in the treatment of severe and refractory reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD) pain in six patients ranging in age from 42 to 68 years is reported. Satisfactory pain relief obtained in all six patients suggests that this medication is an effective treatment for RSD pain. In addition to pain control, early evidence of disease reversal in these patients is suggested. Patient 6 is the first documented case of successful treatment and cure of the RSD pain syndrome using gabapentin alone. Specifically, reduced hyperpathia, allodynia, hyperalgesia, and early reversal of skin and soft tissue manifestations were noted. Gabapentin was chosen because it has properties similar to other anticonvulsant drugs and because previous studies have shown that it is well tolerated and appears to have a benign efficacy- to-toxicity ratio. It was considered an acceptable and compassionate therapeutic choice because previous medical and surgical approaches had been ineffective for these patients, who represent the first case series documenting the use of gabapentin for pain management. Presently, the mechanism of pain relief in these patients is unknown. In this article, the pathophysiology of RSD is discussed, and a mechanism by which gabapentin provides pain relief is proposed. In view of encouraging results in these and other RSD patients, further scientific investigation is needed to delineate the role of gabapentin in the treatment of reflex sympathetic dystrophy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)98-105
Number of pages8
JournalArchives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Rehabilitation


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