Clinical criteria and treatment of segmental versus upper extremity reflex sympathetic dystrophy.

Published online: Sep 27 1998

P N Soucacos, L A Diznitsas, A E Beris, K N Malizos, T A Xenakis, and G S Papadopoulos.

Department of Orthopedic Surgery, University of Ioannina, School of Medicine, Greece.


The effectiveness of a multimodal treatment protocol in the long-term management of upper extremity reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD), as well as of isolated finger involvement, was analyzed. In the present series, 62 patients diagnosed with RSD were treated and followed for a mean of 22.2 +/- 1.5 months. The findings in the present study indicate that: 1) RSD occurs predominantly in females (female:male, 3:1); 2) regional dystrophy is twice as common as segmental dystrophy; 3) segmental dystrophy is most often associated with minor traumatic dystrophy, whereas regional dystrophy is more evenly distributed among the various clinical types; 4) patients with regional dystrophy score their pain significantly higher; and 5) segmental and regional dystrophy respond with equal satisfaction to the multimodal treatment regimen. In conclusion, the weight of the available evidence strongly suggests that RSD is a complex multifaceted disease entity which responds well when managed with a multimodal treatment program aimed at the various interacting components of the disorder. Furthermore, the finding that segmental dystrophy did not behave differently from the treatment protocol compared to extensive upper extremity RSD, suggests that the anatomic location of the syndrome may not significantly alter the course of the disease during treatment.