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, 178 (1), 33-48

Chronic Pain After Clip-Compression Injury of the Rat Spinal Cord

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Chronic Pain After Clip-Compression Injury of the Rat Spinal Cord

Jamie C Bruce et al. Exp Neurol.

Abstract

Chronic tactile allodynia and hyperalgesia are frequent complications of spinal cord injury (SCI) with poorly understood mechanisms. Possible causes are plastic changes in the central arbors of nociceptive and nonnociceptive primary sensory neurons and changes in descending modulatory serotonergic pathways. A clinically relevant clip-compression model of SCI in the rat was used to investigate putative mechanisms of chronic pain. Behavioral testing (n = 18 rats) demonstrated that moderate (35 g) or severe (50 g) SCI at the 12th thoracic spinal segment (T-12) reliably produces chronic tactile allodynia and hyperalgesia that can be evoked from the hindpaws and back. Quantitative morphometry (n = 37) revealed no changes after SCI in the density or distribution of Abeta-, Adelta-, and C-fiber central arbors of primary sensory neurons within the thoracolumbar segments T-6 to L-4. This observation rules out a mandatory relationship between pain-related behaviors and changes in the distribution or density of central afferent arbors. The area of serotonin immunoreactivity in the dorsal horn (n = 12) decreased caudal to the injury site (L1-4) and increased threefold rostral to it (T9-11). The decreased serotonin and presence of tactile allodynia and hyperalgesia caudal to the injury are consistent with disruption of descending antinociceptive serotonergic tracts that modulate pain transmission. The functional significance of the increased serotonin in rostral segments may relate to the development of tactile allodynia as serotonin also has known pronociceptive actions. Changes in the descending serotonergic pathway require further investigation, as a disruption of the balance of serotonergic input rostral and caudal to the injury site may contribute to the etiology of chronic pain after SCI.

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