Introduction: Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is characterized by joint pain, allodynia and hyperalgesia. The rat carrageenan model utilizes inflammation-associated pain following injection of the knee joint to model RA. Traditional assessment of pain in these models utilizes behavioral scoring or manual measurements, methods that are labor intensive and prone to subjective interpretation. This study utilizes the Digigait system to objectively quantify movement and gait dynamics in a monoarthritic rat model.
Material and methods: A pilot study in rats selected "natural" runners using Digigait, and also measured inter and intraday variability as well as effects of anesthesia on gait dynamics. In the main study, 12 female rats were tested at baseline, divided in two groups of 6 rats, briefly anesthetized with isoflurane and injected with 60 microl of 2% lambda carrageenan or vehicle; Digigait testing was repeated 2 and 4 hours post injection and data analyzed.
Results: Selection of "natural" runners significantly contributed to accuracy and reproducibility of gait parameters obtained by the Digigait system. There was minimal intra and inter day variation between individual rats and 4 minutes of isoflurane anesthesia had no effect on gait dynamic at 2 and 4 hours post administration. In the main study a highly reproducible gait signature in the injected limb, and well coordinated adaptation of gait during locomotion in the non-affected limbs were noted as short-term changes following carrageenan injection.
Conclusion: Digigait system was found to be an objective and reliable method for quantification of early behavioral changes consistent with allodynia and hyperalgesia in an inflammatory pain model.