Spinal Excitability in Patients with Painful Chronic Pancreatitis

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Purpose: Abdominal pain is common in patients with chronic pancreatitis (CP), but management is challenging - possibly due to altered pain processing within the central nervous system rendering conventional treatments ineffective. We hypothesized that many patients with painful CP have generalized hyperalgesia correlating with central neuronal hyperexcitability.

Patients and methods: Seventeen CP patients with pain and 20 matched healthy controls underwent experimental pain testing, including repeated pain stimuli (temporal summation), pressure algometry performed in dermatomes with same spinal innervation as the pancreatic gland (pancreatic areas) and remote dermatomes (control areas), a cold pressor test and a conditioned pain modulation paradigm. To probe central neuronal excitability, the nociceptive withdrawal reflex was elicited by electrical stimulation of the plantar skin, and electromyography was obtained from the ipsilateral anterior tibial muscle together with somatosensory evoked brain potentials.

Results: Compared to healthy controls, patients with painful CP had generalized hyperalgesia as evidenced by 45% lower pressure pain detection thresholds (P<0.05) and decreased cold pressor endurance time (120 vs 180 seconds, P<0.001). In patients, reflex thresholds were lower (14 vs 23 mA, P=0.02), and electromyographic responses were increased (16.4 vs 9.7, P=0.04) during the withdrawal reflex, reflecting predominantly spinal hyperexcitability. Evoked brain potentials did not differ between groups. A positive correlation was found between reflex thresholds and cold pressor endurance time (ρ=0.71, P=0.004).

Conclusion: We demonstrated somatic hyperalgesia in patients with painful CP associated with spinal hyperexcitability. This highlights that management should be directed at central mechanisms using, eg, gabapentinoids or serotonin-noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors.
TidsskriftJournal of Pain Research
Sider (fra-til)2287-2298
Antal sider12
StatusUdgivet - 5 jul. 2023

Bibliografisk note

Funding Information:
The study was supported by “INPAIN, Aalborg University Hospital” and The NovoNordisk Foundation, grant#NNF19OC0057331.

Funding Information:
Dr Rasmus Bach Nedergaard reports grants from Grünenthal GmbH, grants from The Danish Cancer Society, outside the submitted work. The authors report no conflicts of interest in this work.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Knoph et al.


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