Background: Systemically administered local anesthetics and other sodium channel blockers produce analgesia in patients with hypersensitivity disorders. To assess whether these agents have a role in the treatment of visceral pain, the present study examined the effects of intravenous lidocaine on neuronal and reflex responses to colorectal distension.
Methods: In decerebrate, cervical spinal cord-transected male rats, the lumbosacral spinal cord was exposed by a laminectomy. Dorsal horn neurons demonstrating excitatory responses to colorectal distension were identified using microelectrodes. Sequential doses of lidocaine were administered intravenously. In chronically instrumented, unanesthetized rats, visceromotor responses, pressor responses, and increases in heart rate were elicited by colorectal distension and sequential doses of lidocaine.
Results: Intravenous lidocaine dose-dependently inhibited visceromotor and cardiovascular reflexes and the evoked and spontaneous activity of neurons excited by colorectal distension. There were statistically greater effects on one of the neuronal subgroups (sustained neurons) than on another subgroup (abrupt neurons.)
Conclusions: Intravenous lidocaine had dose-dependent, inhibitory effects on two spinal neuronal populations excited by colorectal distension and dose-dependently inhibited reflex responses to the same stimulus. This suggests there may be utility of sodium channel blockers in the treatment of pain of visceral origin.