Increased spinal levels of dynorphin, an endogenous opioid kappa agonist, are seen in models of both chronic and acute hyperalgesia. This study determined the extent and localization of spinal immunoreactive dynorphin following sciatic cryoneurolysis (SCN), a neuropathic pain model produced by a peripheral nerve freeze lesion. SCN results in behaviors associated with neuropathic pain such as autotomy (the gnawing and scratching of the affected limb), touch-evoked and mechanical allodynia, and spontaneous nociceptive behavior. Following SCN, 4 rats that displayed autotomy and 3 rats that did not were randomly chosen for immunohistochemical staining of dynorphin-like immunoreactivity (DLIR). The area of DLIR above a standardized threshold level was quantified in both dorsal horns of each spinal cord section using a computer-assisted image analyzer to express DLIR in pixels. DLIR was observed both ipsilateral and contralateral to the injured peripheral nerve. In addition, the area of DLIR was significantly greater (P = 0.05) in rats that showed autotomy behavior (mean = 52.6 x 10(3) +/- 25.6) compared to rats with no autotomy (mean = 13.8 x 10(3) +/- 4.78). In sharp contrast to the ipsilateral dynorphin increases observed in other neuropathic pain models, we observe a bilateral increase at 21 days following SCN.