- PURPOSE: Deep tissue hypoxia has been hypothesized in the pathogenesis of complex regional pain syndrome type 1 (CRPS 1) for some patients. The purpose of this study was to determine if near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) could detect differences in deep tissue oxygen saturation (StO2) and microcirculatory function in the hands of patients with CRPS 1. METHODS: Tissue oxygen saturation was evaluated at baseline and during an ischemia reperfusion challenge using vascular occlusion testing (VOT) in affected vs unaffected hands of patients with unilateral upper limb CRPS 1. A non-randomized experimental study design was used with baseline StO2 as the primary outcome measure. Secondary outcome measures were occlusion and reperfusion slopes from VOT. Values were compared with the unaffected, contralateral hand and with the dominant and non-dominant hands of sex and age-matched volunteers. Correlations between values derived from NIRS and measures of pain and function from the Brief Pain Inventory (BPI) and the Disability of the Arm, Shoulder and Hand (DASH) questionnaires were explored. RESULTS: Independent of handedness, the baseline StO2 of the affected hands of ten CRPS 1 patients was significantly lower than that of their unaffected hands (-5.8%; 95% confidence interval [CI] -10.6 to -1.0; P = 0.02). The baseline StO2 of affected CRPS 1 hands was also significantly lower than the non-dominant hands of ten volunteers (-7.3%; 95% CI -12.4 to -2.3; P = 0.007). Differences in VOT occlusion and reperfusion slopes did not reveal changes that could be uniquely attributed to CRPS 1. No significant correlations were detected between values derived from VOT and values for pain and function obtained from BPI and DASH questionnaires for patients with CRPS 1. CONCLUSIONS: Hands of patients affected by CRPS 1 of the upper limb showed significantly lower StO2 compared with their unaffected contralateral hand as well as the hands of control subjects. This trial was registered at: ClinicalTrials.gov: NCT01586377.