Neuroinflammation and the generation of neuropathic pain

Br J Anaesth. 2013 Jul;111(1):26-37. doi: 10.1093/bja/aet128.


Inflammation is the process by which an organism responds to tissue injury involving both immune cell recruitment and mediator release. Diverse causes of neuropathic pain are associated with excessive inflammation in both the peripheral and central nervous system which may contribute to the initiation and maintenance of persistent pain. Chemical mediators, such as cytokines, chemokines, and lipid mediators, released during an inflammatory response have the undesired effect of sensitizing and stimulating nociceptors, their central synaptic targets or both. These changes can promote long-term maladaptive plasticity resulting in persistent neuropathic pain. This review aims to provide an overview of inflammatory mechanisms at differing levels of the sensory neuroaxis with a focus on neuropathic pain. We will compare and contrast neuropathic pain states such as traumatic nerve injury which is associated with a vigorous inflammatory response and chemotherapy induced pain in which the inflammatory response is much more modest. Targeting excessive inflammation in neuropathic pain provides potential therapeutic opportunities and we will discuss some of the opportunities but also the clinical challenges in such an approach.

Keywords: immune response; pain, neuropathic.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Inflammation / immunology*
  • Neuralgia / complications*
  • Neuralgia / immunology
  • Nociceptors
  • Peripheral Nervous System / immunology
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / complications*
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / immunology*