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Pain Res Treat. 2012;2012:438674. doi: 10.1155/2012/438674. Epub 2012 Feb 28.

The effect of topical local anesthetics on thermal pain sensitivity in patients with irritable bowel syndrome.

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  • 1Department of Child Neurology, Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center and Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, MA 021111, USA.


Generalized hypersensitivity that extends into somatic areas is common in patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The sensitized state, particularly assessed by experimental methods, is known to persist even during remissions of clinical pain. It was hypothesized that disease-related nociceptive activity in the gut maintains a systemic-sensitized state. The present study evaluated responses to prolonged thermal stimuli maintained at constant temperature or constant pain intensity during stimulation. The effect of topically applied rectal lidocaine on heat sensitivity was also evaluated. The question is whether silencing potential intestinal neural activity (which may not always lead to a conscious pain experience) with lidocaine attenuates sensitization of somatic areas. Tests were also performed where lidocaine was applied orally to control for systemic or placebo effects of the drug. The IBS subjects exhibited a greater sensitivity to somatic heat stimuli compared to controls; however, lidocaine had no discernible effect on sensitization in this sample of IBS patients, where most of the individuals did not have clinical pain on the day of testing.

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