Cortical responsiveness to nociceptive stimuli in patients with chronic disorders of consciousness: Do c-fiber laser evoked potentials have a role?

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Abstract

It has been shown that the presence of Aδ-fiber laser evoked potentials (Aδ-LEP) in patients suffering from chronic disorders of consciousness (DOC), such as vegetative state (VS) and minimally conscious state (MCS), may be the expression of a residual cortical pain arousal. Interestingly, the study of C-fiber LEP (C-LEP) could be useful in the assessment of cortical pain arousal in the DOC individuals who lack of Aδ-LEP. To this end, we enrolled 38 DOC patients following post-anoxic or post-traumatic brain injury, who met the international criteria for VS and MCS diagnosis. Each subject was clinically evaluated, through the coma recovery scale-revised (CRS-R) and the nociceptive coma scale-revised (NCS-R), and electrophysiologically tested by means of a solid-state laser for Aδ-LEP and C-LEP. VS individuals showed increased latencies and reduced amplitudes of both the Aδ-LEP and CLEP components in comparison to MCS patients. Although nearly all of the patients had both the LEP components, some VS individuals showed only the C-LEP ones. Notably, such patients had a similar NCS-R score to those having both the LEP components. Hence, we could hypothesize that C-LEP generators may be rearranged or partially spared in order to still guarantee cortical pain arousal when Aδ-LEP generators are damaged. Therefore, the residual presence of C-LEP should be assessed when Aδ-LEP are missing, since a potential pain experience should be still present in some patients, so to properly initiate, or adapt, the most appropriate pain treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0144713
JournalPLoS One
Volume10
Issue number12
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Medicine(all)

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