Factors influencing the features of postherpetic neuralgia and outcome when treated with tricyclics.

This paper retrospectively reviews features of postherpetic neuralgia (PHN) in up to 279 personal patients in relation to treatment outcome when treated with tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs). Factors affecting characteristics of PHN: (i) Patients with allodynia (89%) and/or burning pain (56%) have a much higher visual analogue pain intensity score than those without; (ii) Acyclovir (ACV) given for acute shingles (HZ) does not reduce the incidence of subsequent PHN, but reduces the pain intensity in PHN patients with allodynia; (iii) ACV given for acute HZ reduces the incidence of burning pain in subsequent PHN, but not of allodynia; (iv) ACV given for acute HZ reduces the incidence of clinically detectable sensory deficit in subsequent PHN. Factors affecting outcome of TCA-treated PHN: (i) The point in time at which TCA treatment is commenced is by far the most critical factor: started between 3 and 12 months after acute HZ onset, more than two-thirds obtain pain relief (NNT=1.8); between 13 and 24 months, two-fifths (41%) (NNT=3.6); and more than two years, one-third (NNT=8.3). Background and paroxysmal pain disappear earlier and are more susceptible of relief than allodynia. (ii) Twice as many (86%) of PHN patients without allodynia obtain pain relief with TCA treatment than those with (42%); (iii) the use of ACV for acute HZ more than halves the time-to-relief of PHN patients by TCAs; (iv) PHN patients with burning pain are significantly less likely to obtain pain relief with TCAs than those without (p<0.0001).
AuthorsDavid Bowsher
JournalEuropean journal of pain (London, England) (Eur J Pain) Vol. 7 Issue 1 Pg. 1-7 ( 2003) ISSN: 1090-3801 [Print] England
PMID12527312 (Publication Type: Journal Article, Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't)
Chemical References
  • Antidepressive Agents, Tricyclic
  • Antiviral Agents
  • Acyclovir
  • Acyclovir (therapeutic use)
  • Aged
  • Antidepressive Agents, Tricyclic (therapeutic use)
  • Antiviral Agents (therapeutic use)
  • Female
  • Herpes Zoster (complications, drug therapy)
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuralgia (drug therapy, physiopathology, virology)
  • Pain Measurement
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Treatment Outcome

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