How RSD Is Diagnosed

rsd_logo1Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome/RSD, or Complex Regional Pain Syndrome/CRPS, presents an enormous challenge for diagnosticians. There are many factors involved, which make it quite difficult and convoluted when a patient presents with symptoms, and they look to their doctors for answers. It is extremely frightening and frustrating when a patient experiences the most excruciating pain ever, along with other unfathomable symptoms, only to be turned away by Dr. after Dr., because they are unfamiliar with, and do not recognize the symptoms of RSD/CRPS. It can be quite the conundrum!  Thankfully, some doctors are caring,  good listeners, very sympathetic, and they are willing to  “hang in there” with their patients, until the patients have been definitively diagnosed. It’s quite unfortunate, that there are also doctors who are not as sympathetic, and they go as far as to not believe what their patients are telling them about their pain levels, and other symptoms. This scenario occurs all too often, for patients who are suffering from this chronically painful syndrome!

Since there is no one test that exists which can definitively diagnose RSD 100% of the time, doctors use the process of exclusion to determine whether or not a patient is suffering from RSD. In other words, patients have a battery of tests done, to rule in, or rule out several disorders, which manifest similarly to Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome. This process is a marker of a clinical diagnosis, which will be further explained in the next paragraph.

Usually, a clinical diagnosis is the most effective way to get a proper diagnosis. This type of diagnosis is done by someone who is well versed in this area, and up to date on the most recent research pertaining to RSD. Most of the time, the doctor who would perform this test is a Neurologist. However, other doctors such as Spine Specialists, Pain Management Specialists, and Orthopedic Specialists, have also been known to clinically diagnose RSD/CRPS. This list may not be all-inclusive. These doctors look for specific symptoms that a patient would present with, if RSD is suspected. Although patients suffer from several symptoms, when diagnosing RSD, four markers are specified, when making a clinical diagnosis of RSD. For example, pain that exists long after the precipitating injury has healed, or pain that is disproportionate to the injury sustained. Other markers doctors would look for, are temperature changes of the skin in the affected limb/area, edema and sweating in the affected area and, inflammation and allodynia. I should add, that an evaluation of a patient’s medical history is included, in a clinical diagnosis. Several other tests used to diagnose RSD without much success are CAT scans, MRIs, and x-rays. Another test used to diagnose RSD, is a three-phase bone scan. Although this test definitively diagnoses RSD only a little more than 50% of the time, I thought it would be worth looking into further. This was the test used to confirm the diagnosis of RSD, after I had been clinically diagnosed by a Spine Specialist. My Neurologist suggested that I have this test done. (For more information about this test, click on the hyperlink, three-phase bone scan.) Some doctors believe this test is a total waste of time and money, while others believe there is some validity to using this test. Personally, I was glad to have a concrete confirmation of the clinical diagnosis of RSD. Some patients fear the possibly of the test rendering a “false negative” result. Some patients also believe the test will render an inconclusive result. Click on the image, to read about other tests that are used to diagnose RSD. (This information is at the end of the article.) Feel free to share your stories, or to leave a comment.
I wish you the very best. May God bless you abundantly, today and every day. 

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