Allodynic skin in post-herpetic neuralgia: Histological correlates

Michelangelo Buonocore, Anna Maria Gatti, Georgia Amato, Anna Maria Aloisi, Cesare Bonezzi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Most post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN) patients suffer from tactile allodynia (pain evoked by lightly touching the skin) and it is frequently the dominant clinical manifestation. The pathophysiology of tactile allodynia in PHN patients is poorly understood and this is one of the major limits to the development of appropriate therapies. Epidermal nerve fibres (ENFs) are free nerve endings of small-diameter A-delta and C primary afferents, which can easily be assessed by neurodiagnostic skin biopsy (NSB). The aim of this study was to establish the correlation between the residual epidermal innervation of the allodynic skin and the intensity of tactile allodynia in that area. Twenty-five patients (13 males and 12 females) with PHN were enrolled. Eighteen patients had PHN in the thoracic dermatome, four in the cervical, two in the trigeminal and one in the lumbar. The severity of allodynia evoked by a paintbrush was graded according to an eleven-point numerical scale. A skin biopsy was obtained from the maximal allodynia area and from the contralateral skin. Nerve fibres were labelled with indirect immunofluorescence. Results showed that epidermal innervation was lower in the allodynic skin than in the contralateral skin, although there was great variability among patients. There was no correlation between severity of allodynia and epidermal innervation of the PHN skin. In conclusion, the present study further indicates peripheral nervous system involvement in PHN but does not support a direct correlation between epidermal innervation changes and tactile allodynia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)934-938
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Cellular Physiology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology
  • Physiology


Dive into the research topics of 'Allodynic skin in post-herpetic neuralgia: Histological correlates'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this