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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

The diagnosis and management of neuropathic pain in daily practice in Belgium: an observational study

Guy Hans1*, Etienne Masquelier23 and Patricia De Cock4

Author Affiliations

1 Multidisciplinary Pain Center, Antwerp University Hospital (UZA), Edegem, Belgium

2 Centre de Douleur, Cliniques Universitaires UCL de Mont Godinne, Yvoir, Belgium

3 Service de médecine physique et de réadaptation motrice, Cliniques Universitaires UCL Saint.-Luc, Brussels, Belgium

4 Medical Department Pfizer Belgium, Brussels, Belgium

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BMC Public Health 2007, 7:170  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-7-170

Published: 24 July 2007

Abstract

Background

This open, multicentre, observational survey investigated how physicians diagnose neuropathic pain (NeP) by applying the Leeds Assessment of Neuropathic Symptoms and Signs (LANSS) scale, and how neuropathic pain conditions are managed in daily practice in Belgium.

Methods

Physicians were asked to complete the Leeds Assessment of Neuropathic Symptoms and Signs (LANSS) scale for diagnosing NeP, and to fill out a questionnaire regarding the management of NeP, together with a questionnaire evaluating the impact of pain on sleep and daily life. Data on 2,480 pain patients were obtained. A LANSS score ≥ 12 (meaning NeP is most probably present) was reported for 1,163 patients. Pathologies typically associated with NeP scored above 12 on the LANSS scale, contrary to pathologies generally considered as being of non-neuropathic origin.

Results

Over 90% of the patients with a LANSS score ≥ 12 reported that the pain impaired sleep. A high impact on social, family and professional life was also recorded. Additional examinations were performed in 89% of these patients. Most patients were taking multiple drugs, mainly paracetamol and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, indicating that physicians generally tend to follow treatment guidelines of chronic nociceptive pain, rather than the specific ones for NeP. Specific neuropathic guidelines rather recommend the use of anti-epileptic drugs, tricyclic antidepressants or weak opioids as first-line treatment.

Conclusion

In our survey, application of the LANSS scale lead to pronounced treatment simplification with fewer drug combinations. Awareness about NeP as well as its specific treatment recommendations should be raised among healthcare providers. We concluded that the LANSS screening scale is an interesting tool to assist physicians in detecting NeP patients in routine clinical care.