Neuropathic pain from an experimental neuritis of the rat sciatic nerve

Pain. 1999 Nov;83(2):169-82. doi: 10.1016/s0304-3959(99)00102-5.


Painful peripheral neuropathies involve both axonal damage and an inflammation of the nerve. The role of the latter by itself was investigated by producing an experimental neuritis in the rat. The sciatic nerves were exposed at mid-thigh level and wrapped loosely in hemostatic oxidized cellulose (Oxycel) that on one side was saturated with an inflammatory stimulus, carrageenan (CARRA) or complete Freund's adjuvant (CFA), and on the other side saturated with saline. In other rats, a myositis was created by implanting Oxycel saturated with CFA into a pocket made in the biceps femoris at a position adjacent to where the nerve was treated. Pain-evoked responses from the plantar hind paws were tested before treatment and daily thereafter. Statistically significant heat- and mechano-hyperalgesia, and mechano- and cold-allodynia were present on the side of the inflamed nerve (CARRA or CFA) for 1-5 days after which responses returned to normal. There were no abnormal pain responses on the side of the saline-treated nerve, and none in the rats with the experimental myositis. The abnormal pain responses were inhibited by N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor blockade with MK-801, but were relatively resistant to the dose of morphine tested (10 mg/kg). Light microscopic examination of CARRA-treated nerves, harvested at the time of peak symptom severity, revealed that the treated region was mildly edematous and that there was an obvious endoneurial infiltration of immune cells (granulocytes and lymphocytes). There was either a complete absence of degeneration, or the degeneration of no more than a few tens of axons. Immunocytochemical staining for CD4 and CD8 T-lymphocyte markers revealed that both cell types were present in the epineurial and endoneurial compartments. The endoneurial T-cells appeared to derive from the endoneurial vasculature, rather than from migration across the nerve sheath. We conclude that a focal inflammation of the sciatic nerve produces neuropathic pain sensations in a distant region (the ipsilateral hind paw) and that this is not due to axonal damage. The neuropathic pain is specific to inflammation of the nerve because it was absent in animals with the experimental myositis and in those receiving sham-treatment. These results suggest that an acute episode of neuritis-evoked neuropathic pain may contribute to the genesis of chronically painful peripheral neuropathies, and that a chronic (or chronically recurrent) focal neuritis might produce neuropathic pain in the absence of significant (or clinically detectable) structural damage to the nerve. The model that we describe is likely to be useful in the study of the neuroimmune factors that contribute to painful peripheral neuropathies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Carrageenan
  • Cold Temperature
  • Dizocilpine Maleate / administration & dosage
  • Dizocilpine Maleate / pharmacology*
  • Freund's Adjuvant
  • Hot Temperature
  • Hyperalgesia / physiopathology*
  • Injections, Spinal
  • Male
  • Morphine / pharmacology
  • Neuritis, Autoimmune, Experimental / physiopathology*
  • Pain / physiopathology*
  • Physical Stimulation
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Sciatic Nerve / drug effects
  • Sciatic Nerve / pathology
  • Sciatic Nerve / physiopathology*


  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate
  • Dizocilpine Maleate
  • Morphine
  • Carrageenan
  • Freund's Adjuvant