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The efficacy of pre-emptive analgesia for phantom limb pain is still unclear. It is generally accepted that pre hyphen;amputation pain increases the incidence of phantom and stump pain, even if pre-emptive analgesia is performed before and during surgery and in the postoperative period. Two cases of traumatic upper limb amputations are described here with no pre-existing pain. Both received similar antinociceptive treatment by continuous block of the brachial plexus through infusion of ropivacaine 0.375% at 5 ml/h for 10 days. Treatment of case 1 was initiated immediately after surgery; however, this amputee developed intensive phantom limb pain which persisted at 6 months. Early use of the prosthesis after surgery was not possible for this patient. The intensity of phantom limb pain in case 2 decreased significantly after 6 months, even though brachial plexus blockade was not started until 5 weeks post-trauma. This patient used a functional prosthesis intensively beginning early after amputation. Serial magnetoencephalographic recordings were performed in both patients. Only case 2 showed significant changes of cortical reorganization. In case 1 markedly less cortical plasticity was found. A combination of relevant risk factors such as a painful neuroma, behavioural and cognitive coping strategies and the early functional use of prostheses are discussed as important mechanisms contributing to the development of phantom pain and cortical reorganization.

Original publication




Journal article


Eur J Pain

Publication Date





449 - 455


Adult, Amides, Anesthetics, Local, Artificial Limbs, Cerebral Cortex, Female, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Neuronal Plasticity, Pain, Phantom Limb, Ropivacaine