Nerve constriction in the rat: model of neuropathic, surgical and central pain
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In preparation for a series of electrophysiological experiments in a model of neuropathic pain, the present spinal reflex study was done to determine the optimal time after sciatic nerve constriction in the rat for tactile allodynia and to determine also the appropriate 'control' for the nerve constriction model. Therefore, this study focused on the magnitude and time course of change in paw withdrawal threshold following unilateral sciatic nerve constriction in the rat. Male Sprague-Dawley rats (375-425g) were used. Nerve constriction was done by placing a 2 mm polyethylene cuff (PE-90) around the left sciatic nerve (n=8). A second group of rats (n=8) received unilateral sham surgery and a third group (n=8) was unoperated. The ipsi- and contralateral hind paw withdrawal thresholds in each of the 3 groups were measured using von Frey hairs. In unoperated rats, the withdrawal threshold of each of the hind paws remained unchanged at approximately 50 g throughout the entire time course of the study, which lasted 145 days. However, in cuff-implanted rats, the withdrawal threshold of the nerve-injured hind paw decreased as soon as 1 day after surgery, reached as low as 1 to 2 g by 5 days and remained low throughout the test period. Threshold in sham-operated rats showed a bilateral decrease starting on days 1-3, which stabilised at about 30 g until about day 40, after which values returned gradually toward the unoperated withdrawal thresholds. In nerve-constricted rats the withdrawal threshold of the hind paw contralateral to the cuff followed the same change seen in sham-operated rats until about day 37, after which the withdrawal threshold matched that of the cuff-implanted hind paw. The data show that the cuff-induced sciatic nerve constriction produces a sustained hypersensitivity to normally innocuous tactile sensory input and that a relatively constant ipsilateral mechanical hyperalgesia can be found from days 5-27. It is also demonstrated that the contralateral hind paw and either hind paw in sham-operated rats are inappropriate as 'controls'. The data in this study suggest that three distinct types of allodynia are expressed. Ipsilateral allodynia may be representative of a model of neuropathic pain. The contralateral allodynia may be a model of central pain, as it likely arises from changes in central sensory processing. Allodynia in sham-operated rats was also expressed bilaterally and may be a model of long-term postoperative pain.
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