Measuring Peripheral Tissue Activation in Patients with Chronic Pain
In another study, patients with acute ankle sprain served as a model of acute and chronic pain. The aim was to explore if signs inflammation in the painful sites could be visualized and quantified to study the healing process following traumatic injury using PET. Eight otherwise healthy patients with unilateral ankle sprain were imaged acutely and followed up twice, first a month and then up to over one year after injury. Acutely D-deprenyl uptake was significantly increased by a factor 10.7 (range 2.9-37.3) in the injured as compared to the intact ankle. Patients with persistent pain showed prolonged deprenyl uptake in the injury sites (Gordh et al. 2014, work in progress). The exact binding site of deprenyl is so far unknown. In patients suffering from pain due to tennis elbow, painful sites in the arm could be visualized by a NK1 antagonist PET marker (Peterson et al. 2013).
In conclusion, our investigations demonstrate that different kinds of painful processes in the body can be objectively visualized and quantified with PET imaging. This strengthens the patients’ self-report of pain, and adds to the methods used for diagnostic work-up for chronic pain patients. It may also stimulate a shift of focus in pain research, to the importance of peripheral nociceptive input as a generator of chronic pain, most likely acting in concert with central sensitization processes.