Background: Alterations in cutaneous temperature, sweating, and cutaneous blood flow in patients with pain states, such as reflex sympathetic dystrophy and causalgia, have been interpreted as evidence for exaggerated sympathetic outflow. It was determined whether pain behavior in a rat model of sympathetically maintained pain is associated with alterations in regional sympathoneural function. Methods: Peripheral neuropathy was induced in 29 Sprague-Dawley rats by ligation of the left 1.5 and L6 spinal nerves. Sixteen other rats had sham surgery (nerve exposure without ligation). Animals were tested for behavioral signs of allodynia (decreased paw withdrawal thresholds to mechanical stimuli) at 2 and 4 weeks after the surgery. Arterial and lilac venous blood samples (left, affected; right, control) were obtained at 2 weeks (NP2, n = 14) and 4 weeks (NP4, n = 15) after neuropathic or sham (n = 8 at 2 and 4 weeks) surgery. Plasma concentrations of dihydroxyphenylalanine, dihydroxyphenylacetic acid, dopamine, norepinephrine, and the intraneuronal norepinephrine metabolite, 3,4-dihydroxyphenylglycol, were analyzed in arterial and left and right lilac venous samples. Results: A decrease in paw withdrawal threshold was observed in neuropathic (NP2 and NP4) but not sham- operated rats. Affected and control limbs did not differ in arteriovenous differences in concentrations of dihydroxyphenylalanine, dihydroxyphenylacetic acid, dopamine, or 3,4-dihydroxyphenylglycol. No differences were observed between sham-operated and neuropathic animals in these arteriovenous increments. In contrast, affected limbs of NP2 rats had a reduced arteriovenous increment in norepinephrine concentrations, compared to that in the control side (P < 0.05). Conclusions: No neurochemical evidence of sympathetic hyperactivity is observed in the rat model of neuropathic pain; if anything, norepinephrine release is decreased in the affected limb. Autonomic disturbances in neuropathic pain are therefore more likely the result of receptor supersensitivity than increased local sympathoneural traffic.
- Pain, neuropathic: reflex sympathetic dystrophy; sympathetically maintained pain
- Sympathetic nervous system: catecholamines; 3,4- dihydroxyphenylglycol; norepinephrine
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine