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J Pain. 2007 Dec;8(12):914-23. Epub 2007 Aug 20.

Inflammation-induced enhancement of the visceromotor reflex to urinary bladder distention: modulation by endogenous opioids and the effects of early-in-life experience with bladder inflammation.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, Alabama 35205, USA.


Abdominal electromyographic (EMG) responses to noxious intensities of urinary bladder distention (UBD) are significantly enhanced 24 hours after zymosan-induced bladder inflammation in adult female rats. This inflammation-induced hypersensitivity is concomitantly inhibited by endogenous opioids because intraperitoneal (i.p.) naloxone administration before testing significantly increases EMG response magnitude to UBD. This inhibitory mechanism is not tonically active because naloxone does not alter EMG response magnitude to UBD in rats without inflammation. At the dose tested, naloxone does not affect bladder compliance in rats with or without inflammation. The effects of i.p. naloxone probably result from blockade of a spinal mechanism because intrathecal naloxone also significantly enhances EMG responses to UBD in rats with inflammation. Rats exposed to bladder inflammation from P90-P92 before reinflammation at P120 show similar hypersensitivity and concomitant opioid inhibition, with response magnitudes being no different from that produced by inflammation at P120 alone. In contrast, rats exposed to bladder inflammation from P14-P16 before reinflammation at P120 show markedly enhanced hypersensitivity and no evidence of concomitant opioid inhibition. These data indicate that bladder inflammation in adult rats induces bladder hypersensitivity that is inhibited by an endogenous opioidergic mechanism. This mechanism can be disrupted by neonatal bladder inflammation.


The present study observed that bladder hypersensitivity resulting from acute bladder inflammation is suppressed by an opioid-inhibitory mechanism. Experiencing bladder inflammation during the neonatal period can impair the expression of this opioid inhibitory mechanism in adulthood. This suggests that bladder insults during development may permanently alter visceral sensory systems and may represent 1 cause of painful bladder disorders.

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