Subcortical brain anatomy as a potential biomarker of persistent pain after total knee replacement in osteoarthritis

Joana Barroso, Paulo Branco, João Pinto-Ramos, Andrew D. Vigotsky, Ana Mafalda Reis, Thomas J. Schnitzer, Vasco Galhardo, A. Vania Apkarian*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The neural mechanisms for the persistence of pain after a technically successful arthroplasty in osteoarthritis (OA) remain minimally studied, and direct evidence of the brain as a predisposing factor for pain chronicity in this setting has not been investigated. We undertook this study as a first effort to identify presurgical brain and clinical markers of postarthroplasty pain in knee OA. Patients with knee OA (n = 81) awaiting total arthroplasty underwent clinical and psychological assessment and brain magnetic resonance imagining. Postoperative pain scores were measured at 6 months after surgery. Brain subcortical anatomic properties (volume and shape) and clinical indices were studied as determinants of postoperative pain. We show that presurgical subcortical volumes (bilateral amygdala, thalamus, and left hippocampus), together with shape deformations of the right anterior hippocampus and right amygdala, associate with pain persistence 6 months after surgery in OA. Longer pain duration, higher levels of presurgical anxiety, and the neuropathic character of pain were also prognostic of postsurgical pain outcome. Brain and clinical indices accounted for unique influences on postoperative pain. Our study demonstrates the presence of presurgical subcortical brain factors that relate to postsurgical persistence of OA pain. These preliminary results challenge the current dominant view that mechanisms of OA pain predominantly underlie local joint mechanisms, implying novel clinical management and treatment strategies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2306-2315
Number of pages10
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2023


  • Chronic pain
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Postsurgical pain
  • Subcortical brain

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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