Psychophysiological Processing of Itch in Patients with Chronic Post-burn Itch: An Exploratory Study
Antionette I.M. van Laarhoven, Dietmar J.O. Ulrich, Oliver H. Wilder-Smith, Nancy E.E. van Loey, Marianne Nieuwenhuis, Nic J.A. van der Wee, Andrea W.M. Evers
A substantial proportion of patients with burn injury develop chronic itch, which can severely affect their quality of life. As found in research on chronic pain, different psychophysiological processes may also play a role in chronic itch, of which central sensitization, conditioned modulation, and attentional processes have been studied most frequently. This study aimed to explore psychophysiological processes of chronic post-burn itch by comparing 15 patients with long-term itch due to burn injury with 15 matched healthy controls. Exploratory results indicated tendencies for higher itch sensitivity in patients than in controls, for mechanical stimuli and histamine, but not for electrical stimulation. Results further suggest that the efficacy of itch modulation by an itch- or pain-conditioning stimulus or directing attention towards itch stimuli do not differ between these patients and controls. Further elucidation of the processes underlying post-burn itch may improve the early identification and treatment of burn patients developing chronic itch.