This paper reviews the contribution of Sudeck to the understanding of the condition commonly referred to as 'Sudeck's atrophy' and which is commonly used as a synonym for a condition variously called reflex sympathetic dystrophy, causalgia, algodystrophy and others. Sudeck came to show in his later papers that the so-called atrophy was, in the majority of cases, a normal inflammatory process of bone change in the course of healing after an inflammatory/infective or traumatic insult. Contrary to the views of much current literature, the vast majority of such cases had a good prognosis. In those cases which became pathological and had a correspondingly poorer prognosis, the characteristic clinical picture becomes associated with radiological and pathological changes, which, uniquely, are described by Sudeck. A knowledge of such radiological and pathological substrate for clinical symptomatology is important in the analysis of pain following trauma.
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