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The Link Between CRPS and Surgery

Although complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) has been a recognised medical condition for more than 150 years, its exact cause is still unclear.


As a condition, CRPS typically develops within a month of an injury, whether it be minor or serious. Injuries known to cause CRPS include bone fractures, sprains and strains, as well as burns and cuts. The condition is also known to occur after surgical procedures are carried out on a limb. In this blog, we discuss the connection between CRPS and surgery and more detail. Read on to find out more.

Complex regional pain syndrome is a rare, chronic, and sometimes progressive condition. It usually affects one of the arms, legs, hands or feet after an injury, however, complications can impact the entire body, including the internal organs. The exact cause is an obscure subject and an area of vigorous medical research. In some cases, the cause remains unknown.

Often, an injury, such as a fracture or a laceration, can cause CRPS, however, why a certain injury will result in CRPS for one person and not another is unclear. Similarly, symptoms may appear post-surgery, however, the reason as to why surgery will result in CRPS for one person and not others who have undergone almost identical procedures remain a mystery and is yet to be explained.

Collated research published in 2017 showed the reported incidence of the development of CRPS following surgical procedures for fractures to the upper and lower body.

Some of the findings indicated that, following surgery to the foot, 4.4% of people developed CRPS, with 31% having developed the condition following surgery for tibial fractures. These figures highlight the critical importance of CRPS awareness in fracture management. Given the potential benefits of taking Vitamin C, it is becoming more common practise for patients to be advised to take 500mg for 50 days following limb fracture or surgery.

There are two types of CRPS. Type 2, previously known as causalgia, may emerge after having surgery, breaking a bone, or following a serious infection. There is usually clear evidence of nerve damage.

The incidence of CRPS does not seem to be more common after large injuries and can follow even relatively minor injuries and surgeries that do not obviously involve a nerve.

The onset of CRPS symptoms is not immediate and may lag about three or four weeks from the event that probably prompted it, so identifying the cause can be almost impossible.

Most people recover from their injuries and any resulting surgery without experiencing any significant long-term effects. However, people with CRPS develop pain that’s much more severe and long-lasting than usual.

The pain can spread beyond the site of the original injury, usually affecting an entire limb. For example, CRPS may affect your whole arm after an injury to your finger or hand. In some cases, more than one area of the body can be affected.

Certain things appear to increase the incidence of CRPS. It is more common with injuries to nerves or injuries that are very painful; in patients usually between the ages of 40 and 60; and, although it affects both men and women, is most frequently seen in women.

For anyone suffering CRPS, the need for surgery can be extremely concerning. Any form of surgery can cause the condition to worsen or even spread. However, if a medical procedure is unavoidable, treatment protocols exist to minimise the risk of exacerbating your condition so, ask your specialist to discuss these with you.

Here at Brian Barr, we are not medical experts but as specialist CRPS solicitors, we have vast experience of the condition.

If you have developed CRPS due to an accident or injury that wasn’t your fault, you could be entitled to compensation.

If you would like to discuss this in further detail with one of our team, call us for free on 0808 123 0003 or click here to fill in our online contact form.

We do not endorse any research, studies or sources mentioned within our blogs and comments. Furthermore, we do not endorse any medical advice provided, and would strongly recommend anyone seeking medical advice to contact their local healthcare provider.

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