Current Issue - May-June 2015 - Vol 18 Issue 3


  1. 2015;18;E389-E401Cognitive Performance Is Related to Central Sensitization and Health-related Quality of Life in Patients with Chronic Whiplash-Associated Disorders and Fibromyalgia
    Case Control Study
    Iris Coppieters, MSc, Kelly Ickmans, PhD, Barbara Cagnie, PhD, Jo Nijs, PhD, Robby De Pauw, MSc, Suzie Noten, MSc, and Mira Meeus, PhD.

BACKGROUND: A growing body of research has demonstrated that impaired central pain modulation or central sensitization (CS) is a crucial mechanism for the development of persistent pain in chronic whiplash-associated disorders (WAD) and fibromyalgia (FM) patients. Furthermore, there is increasing evidence for cognitive dysfunctions among these patients. In addition, chronic WAD and FM patients often report problems with health-related quality of life (QoL). Yet, there is limited research concerning the interrelations between cognitive performance, indices of CS, and health-related QoL in these patients. OBJECTIVES: (1) Examining the presence of cognitive impairment, CS, and limitations on health-related QoL in patients with chronic WAD and FM compared to healthy controls. (2) Examining interrelations between performance-based cognitive functioning, CS, and self-reported health-related QoL in these 3 study groups. STUDY DESIGN: A case-control study was conducted. SETTING: The present study took place at the University Hospital Brussels, the University of Brussels, and the University of Antwerp. METHODS: Fifty-nine patients (16 chronic WAD patients, 21 FM patients, and 22 pain-free volunteers) filled out the Short Form 36 item Health Survey (SF-36), a self-reported psychosocial questionnaire, to assess health-related QoL. Next, they were subjected to various pain measurements (pressure hyperalgesia, deep-tissue hyperalgesia, temporal summation [TS], and conditioned pain modulation [CPM]). Finally, participants completed a battery of performance-based cognitive tests (Stroop task, psychomotor vigilance task [PVT], and operation span task [OSPAN]). RESULTS: Significant cognitive impairment, bottom-up sensitization, and decreased health-related QoL were demonstrated in patients with chronic WAD and FM compared to healthy controls (P < 0.017). CPM was comparable between the 3 groups. Cognitive performance was significantly related to central pain modulation (deep-tissue hyperalgesia, TS, CPM) as well as to self-reported health-related QoL (P < 0.05). Decreased cognitive performance was related to deficient central pain modulation in healthy controls. Further, significant correlations between decreased cognitive performance and reduced health-related QoL were revealed among all study groups. Additionally, FM patients showed correlations between cognitive impairment and increased health-related QoL. Remarkably, impaired selective attention and working memory were related to less TS, whereas impaired sustained attention was correlated with dysfunctional CPM in FM patients. LIMITATIONS: Based on the current cross-sectional study no firm conclusions can be drawn on the causality of the relations. CONCLUSION: In conclusion, this paper has demonstrated significant cognitive deficits, signs of CS, and reduced health-related QoL in chronic WAD and FM patients compared to healthy individuals. Significant relations between cognitive performance and CS as well as health-related QoL were demonstrated. These results provide preliminary evidence for the clinical importance of objectively measured cognitive deficits in patients with chronic WAD and FM.