An expert from Bath is pioneering a new treatment for people with agonising pain.
Occupational therapist Jenny Lewis believes she can revolutionise treatment of a condition that leaves patients in so much pain they would rather cut off their arm or leg than endure the constant agony.
One in every 4,000 people in the UK suffers from Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), which can be triggered after a small injury and often leaves patients in significant physical torment.
Dr Lewis, who is based at the Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases (RNHRD) in Bath, has secured a fellowship at a leading international centre. She will work at McGill University in Canada, using brain imaging to investigate the phenomenon known as body perception disturbance.
The RNHRD, also known as The Min, is the only UK hospital that offers an inpatient rehabilitation service, and sees about 100 new patients with CRPS each year.
During her clinical work Dr Lewis noticed how patients behaved in an unusual way towards their painful limb. “”While treating patients with CRPS I noticed that rather than protect and look after their painful limb as you might expect, patients often ignored it,”” she said.
“”They had a distorted perception of their limb and when asked to close their eyes and describe it, they would leave out whole anatomical sections.
“”They would express feelings of loathing towards it, often behaving as if it was not part of their body. Some even had a desperate desire to amputate it.””
Body perception disturbance sees patients often unable to engage with the painful limb, which can be detrimental to their rehabilitation.
Dr Lewis will use magnetic resonance imaging to explore possible changes in the region of the brain responsible for touch sensation.
She hopes to use this as evidence of changes in the way that the brain represents the limb where chronic pain is felt, and will compare this brain activity to how patients describe their body perception disturbance to establish whether there is a relationship between the two.
“”A better understanding of this relationship will inform treatment and contribute to improving rehabilitation outcomes for patients with CRPS and other chronic pain conditions,”” she added.
Source: Bath Chronicle