Glucocorticoid inhibition of neuropathic hyperalgesia and spinal Fos expression

Anesth Analg. 2001 Feb;92(2):476-82. doi: 10.1097/00000539-200102000-00037.


Glucocorticoids are used to treat patients suffering from neuropathic pain and complex regional pain syndromes (CRPS). Previously we found that once-daily injections of the glucocorticoid methylprednisolone had no antihyperalgesic effect in the rat sciatic nerve transection model for CRPS, but on the basis of CRPS clinical data, we hypothesized that a continuous infusion of methylprednisolone might prove effective. We further postulated that the antihyperalgesic effects of glucocorticoids were mediated by the inhibition of spinal neuron hyperactivity and by the depletion of substance P or its NK(1) receptor. This study tested the effects of continuously infused methylprednisolone in sciatic nerve-transected rats. Continuous infusion of methylprednisolone (3 mg. kg(-1). d(-1) for 21 days), started after the development of neuropathic hyperalgesia, reversed both heat and mechanical hyperalgesia over 2 wk, and this effect persisted for at least 1 wk after discontinuing methylprednisolone. In addition, continuous methylprednisolone infusion partially reversed nerve injury-evoked Fos expression in the dorsal horns, suggesting that glucocorticoids can inhibit the spinal neuron hyperactivity induced by chronic sciatic nerve transection. Finally, no changes were observed in spinal substance P or NK(1) immunoreactivity after chronic methylprednisolone infusion, suggesting that the depletion of this neuropeptide or its receptor does not contribute to the antihyperalgesic actions of glucocorticoids.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Complex Regional Pain Syndromes / prevention & control
  • Hyperalgesia / prevention & control*
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Male
  • Methylprednisolone / pharmacology*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-fos / analysis*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Receptors, Neurokinin-1 / analysis
  • Spinal Cord / chemistry*
  • Substance P / analysis


  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-fos
  • Receptors, Neurokinin-1
  • Substance P
  • Methylprednisolone