Enhancement of experimental pruritus and mechanically evoked dysesthesiae with local anesthesia

Somatosens Mot Res. 1999;16(4):291-8. doi: 10.1080/08990229970357.


Pain reduces itch-a commonly known effect of scratching the skin. Experimentally produced itch from histamine is sometimes accompanied by secondary sensations of pain. The present study investigated the effects of eliminating this pain, by means of a local anesthetic, on the itch and the enhanced mechanically evoked itch and pain that occur after an intradermal injection of histamine. In ten human subjects, the volar forearm was injected with either 20 microl of 2% chloroprocaine (experimental arm), or 20 microl of saline (control arm). Histamine 10 microl was injected into each bleb, and the resulting magnitude of itch estimated. The borders of three cutaneous areas were mapped within which mechanical stimulation of the skin surrounding the bleb elicited abnormal sensations (dysesthesiae): alloknesis, defined as itch evoked by innocuous stroking, and hyperalgesia and hyperknesis, characterized, respectively, by enhanced pain and enhanced itch evoked by pricking the skin with a fine tipped filament. The magnitude and duration of itch were significantly greater and the areas of dysesthesia significantly larger for the experimental than for the control arm. It is hypothesized that there exist two classes of histamine-sensitive primary afferent neurons. One class is "pruritic", and mediates itch whereas the other is "antipruritic", and evokes a centrally mediated reduction in histamine-evoked itch and dysesthesiae. It is further suggested that the anesthetic blocked the discharges of the antipruritic afferents, preventing the central inhibition from occurring and thereby unmasking the effects of the pruritic afferents.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Controlled Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Anesthetics, Local / pharmacology*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Forearm
  • Histamine / administration & dosage
  • Humans
  • Hyperalgesia / chemically induced
  • Injections, Intradermal
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain / chemically induced
  • Pain / physiopathology*
  • Paresthesia / chemically induced*
  • Paresthesia / physiopathology*
  • Physical Stimulation
  • Procaine / analogs & derivatives
  • Procaine / pharmacology
  • Pruritus / chemically induced*
  • Pruritus / physiopathology*
  • Skin / drug effects
  • Skin Tests / methods
  • Time Factors


  • Anesthetics, Local
  • Procaine
  • chloroprocaine
  • Histamine