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Joint Bone Spine. 2006 May;73(3):270-7. Epub 2005 Jun 22.

Pathophysiology of disk-related low back pain and sciatica. II. Evidence supporting treatment with TNF-alpha antagonists.

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Fran├žois Rabelais de Tours University, EA 3853 Immuno-Pharmaco-genetics of Therapeutic Antibodies (IPGA), France.


Strong evidence suggests that TNF-alpha may be among the chemical factors involved in disk-related sciatica. TNF-alpha is involved in the genesis of nerve pain in animal models and may promote pain-signal production from nerve roots previously subjected to mechanical deformation. In animal experiments, TNF-alpha has been identified in nucleus pulposus and Schwann cells. Local production of endogenous TNF-alpha may occur early in the pathogenic process. Exposure to exogenous TNF-alpha induces electrophysiological, histological, and behavioral changes similar to those seen after exposure to nucleus pulposus, and these changes are more severe when mechanical compression is applied concomitantly. TNF-alpha antagonists diminish or abolish abnormalities in animal models. Other cytokines may be involved also, as suggested by the potent inhibitory effects of compounds such as doxycycline. Two open-label studies in humans suggest dramatic efficacy of TNF-alpha antagonists in alleviating disk-related sciatica. In contrast, the results of the only controlled study available to date do not support a therapeutic effect of TNF-alpha antagonists. Thus, whether TNF-alpha antagonist therapy is warranted in patients with disk-related sciatica remains an open question, and further randomized controlled studies are needed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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