Continuous brachial plexus blockade in combination with the NMDA receptor antagonist memantine prevents phantom pain in acute traumatic upper limb amputees

M. Schley, S. Topfner, K. Wiech, H. E. Schaller, C. J. Konrad, M. Schmelz, N. Birbaumer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Background: Hyperexcitability of N-methyl-d-aspartate acid (NMDA) receptors may play an important role in the development of phantom limb pain (PLP). Aim of the study: To investigate whether early treatment with the NMDA antagonist memantine attenuates phantom pain memory formation in traumatic amputees. Methods: In a randomized, double-blind, controlled trial 19 patients with acute traumatic amputation of the upper extremity were investigated. All patients received postoperative analgesia by continuous brachial plexus anesthesia (ropivacaine 0.375% 5 ml/h) for at least 7 days. In addition, the patients received either memantine (20-30 mg daily, n = 10) or placebo (n = 9) for 4 weeks. Results: Memantine treatment reduced the number of requested ropivacacine bolus injections during the first week and resulted in a significant decrease of PLP prevalence and intensity at 4 weeks and 6 months follow up, but not at 12 months follow up. Conclusions: We conclude that memantine can reduce intensity of phantom limb pain and might also prevent the development of PLP. However, despite the very early begin of treatment; no long-term effect on established PLP was evident.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)299-308
Number of pages10
JournalEuropean Journal of Pain (United Kingdom)
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2007



  • Acute traumatic amputation
  • Continuous brachial plexus block
  • Deafferentation hyperexcitability
  • Glutamate antagonism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine
  • Neurology
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology

Cite this