Antiallodynic Effects of Systemic and Intrathecal Morphine in the Spared Nerve Injury Model of Neuropathic Pain in Rats

Chengshui Zhao, Jill M. Tall, Richard A. Meyer, Srinivasa N. Raja

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


Background: The efficacy of opioids for neuropathic pain remains controversial. The effects of morphine on pain behavior were investigated in two animal models of neuropathic pain: the spared nerve injury (SNI) model and the spinal nerve ligation (SNL) model. Methods: Nerve injuries were created in rats either by tight ligation and section of the left tibial and common peroneal nerves (SNI) or by unilateral ligation of L5 and L6 spinal nerves (SNL). Paw withdrawal threshold to mechanical stimuli was measured using the up-down method in the hairy and glabrous skin territories of the sural nerve for SNI rats or in the midplantar paw of SNL rats. Results: Before SNI, the median paw withdrawal thresholds in hairy and glabrous skin were similar (26 g [25%, 75% quartiles: 26, 26 g]). The paw withdrawal threshold decreased after SNI in both hairy and glabrous skin (P < 0.001). Thirty days after the SNI, the threshold in hairy skin (0.3 g) was significantly lower than in glabrous skin (1.9 g; P < 0.001). In blinded experiments, both subcutaneous and intrathecal morphine (0.1-10 μg) dose-dependently attenuated mechanical allodynia induced by SNI measured in the hairy skin, an effect that was naloxone reversible. The ED50 for the intrathecal morphine was 0.52 μg (95% confidence interval, 0.31-0.90 μg). Morphine (1 μg intrathecal) attenuated SNI-induced mechanical allodynia in glabrous skin with potency similar to that in hairy skin. In SNL rats, morphine (30 μg intrathecal) almost completely reversed the SNL-induced mechanical allodynia. Conclusions: (1) SNI-induced mechanical allodynia is characterized by a lower paw withdrawal threshold in hairy versus glabrous skin; (2) systemic and intrathecal morphine reverse SNI-induced mechanical allodynia in a dose-dependent fashion; and (3) intrathecal morphine also reverses SNL-induced mechanical allodynia. These results suggest that intrathecal opioids are likely to be effective in the treatment of neuropathic pain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)905-911
Number of pages7
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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