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Am J Physiol. 1998 Sep;275(3 Pt 1):G460-6.

Differential effects of amitriptyline on perception of somatic and visceral stimulation in healthy humans.

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  • 1Division of Gastroenterology, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Michigan Medical Center, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109, USA.


Tricyclic antidepressants treat chronic pain both in patients with somatic illness and with functional bowel disorders. We compared the effects of amitriptyline on perception of cutaneous and gastrointestinal stimulation to assess differential analgesic effects of tricyclics on somatic and visceral pain. Cutaneous electrical stimulation and rectal and esophageal distension were performed before and after 21 days of double-blind 50 mg amitriptyline vs. placebo in healthy volunteers. Amitriptyline increased currents that elicited cutaneous threshold, moderate discomfort, and moderate pain compared with basal (P < 0.05), whereas placebo had no effect. Amitriptyline had no effect on perception of rectal and esophageal distension and did not alter luminal compliance; thus the lack of effect on perception is not due to altered visceral elastic wall properties. In conclusion, amitriptyline reduces perception of cutaneous stimulation but does not alter visceral perception or compliance. This investigation demonstrates differential effects of tricyclics on somatic and visceral afferent function in healthy humans and provides insight into mechanisms of action in chronic pain both from somatic disease and from functional bowel disorders.

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