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March 1962

Congenital Absence of Pain: Report of a Case and Experimental Studies

Author Affiliations


From the Section of Dermatology (Dr. Winkelmann), Section of Physiology (Dr. Lambert), and the Section of Pediatrics (Dr. Hayles), Mayo Clinic and Mayo Foundation.

Arch Dermatol. 1962;85(3):325-339. doi:10.1001/archderm.1962.01590030023004

Although a life without pain sounds Utopian, it is possible. Individual human organisms can develop and function—some of them in a fairly normal manner—without the information, the protective reflexes, or the paradoxical pleasure that pain affords. Some persons can tolerate specific stimuli that would be excruciating to the physiologically normal, and there are rare individuals who have a more or less generalized analgesia.

Review and Description

Reports and reviews of 45 such cases have been published, from Dearborn's1 single instance in 1932 to the well-studied patients and stimulating discussion of Ogden, Robert, and Carmichael2 in 1959. Fanconi and Ferrazzini3 had summarized the literature in 1957. Kipnis and associates4 in 1954 had noted that the studies performed had been adequate in only 11 cases and had mentioned that these were a heterogeneous group, for 6 of the patients had perceived pain occasionally and 2 of them had