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Pain. 2001 Mar;91(1-2):177-87.

Concentration-effect relationship of intravenous alfentanil and ketamine on peripheral neurosensory thresholds, allodynia and hyperalgesia of neuropathic pain.

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Department of Anesthesiology, University of California, San Diego, 9500 Gilman Drive #0924, La Jolla, CA 92093-0924, USA.


Both mu opioid agonists and N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor antagonists are implicated in the regulation of neuropathic pain in post-nerve injury preclinical pain models. This study characterizes the effects of intravenously infused alfentanil (a mu-receptor agonist) and ketamine (an NMDA-receptor antagonist) on human neuropathic pain states, characterized by allodynia and hyperalgesia. Using diphenhydramine as the placebo, alfentanil and ketamine infusions were given in a randomized double-blind fashion 1 week apart via a computer-controlled infusion (CCI) pump that was programmed to target plasma levels of alfentanil at 25, 50 and 75 ng/ml and ketamine at 50, 100 and 150 ng/ml. At the beginning of each infusion and each targeted plasma level, baseline vital signs, neurosensory testing that included thermal thresholds, thermal pain and von Frey filament thresholds, and spontaneous and evoked pain scores were obtained. Moreover, the areas of allodynia or hyperalgesia to stroking and a 5.18 von Frey filament were mapped at the beginning and the end of each infusion. A total of seven males and five females with post-nerve injury allodynia and hyperalgesia were enrolled in the study. Elevations of cold, warm, hot pain and von Frey tactile thresholds were noted. Dose-dependent increases in cold and cold pain thresholds, and reductions in stroking pain scores were noted in both the alfentanil and the ketamine infusions. In addition, alfentanil showed a statistically significant dose-dependent reduction in both spontaneous and von Frey pain scores. Both the alfentanil and ketamine infusions showed a reduction in the stroking hyperalgesic area and ketamine showed a significant reduction in the von Frey hyperalgesia area. No significant CNS side effects and changes in vital signs were noted. A partial deafferentation state was found in the post-nerve injury patients who presented with allodynia and hyperalgesia. The effects of alfentanil on cold and cold pain thresholds and spontaneous pain scores correlates with previous studies suggesting an opiate central analgesic effect. In addition, the reduction of the hyperalgesic area and evoked pain scores with the alfentanil infusion suggests that opioids may have some peripheral effects in the post-nerve injury patients. Therefore, clinical utilization of opioids with careful titration may be beneficial in post-nerve injury patients with partial deafferentation. With the absence of significant CNS side effects, the ketamine infusion not only demonstrated the well-documented spinal cord mechanism of the NMDA receptor, but the result of the current study also suggests that a peripheral mechanism of NMDA receptor may exist. The relationship between central sensitization and regulation of peripheral NMDA-receptor expression requires further investigation.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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