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Neuroscience. 2007 Nov 9;149(3):660-72. Epub 2007 Sep 8.

Neural mechanisms of pelvic organ cross-sensitization.

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Department of Physiology, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, 940 Stanton L. Young Boulevard, Oklahoma City, OK 73104, USA.


Clinical observations of viscerovisceral referred pain in patients with gastrointestinal and genitourinary disorders suggest an overlap of neurohumoral mechanisms underlying both bowel and urinary bladder dysfunctions. Close proximity of visceral organs within the abdominal cavity complicates identification of the exact source of chronic pelvic pain, where it originates, and how it relocates with time. Cross-sensitization among pelvic structures may contribute to chronic pelvic pain of unknown etiology and involves convergent neural pathways of noxious stimulus transmission from two or more organs. Convergence of sensory information from discrete pelvic structures occurs at different levels of nervous system hierarchy including dorsal root ganglia, the spinal cord and the brain. The cell bodies of sensory neurons projecting to the colon, urinary bladder and male/female reproductive organs express a wide range of membrane receptors and synthesize many neurotransmitters and regulatory peptides. These substances are released from nerve terminals following enhanced neuronal excitability and may lead to the occurrence of neurogenic inflammation in the pelvis. Multiple factors including inflammation, nerve injury, ischemia, peripheral hyperalgesia, metabolic disorders and other pathological conditions dramatically alter the function of directly affected pelvic structures as well as organs located next to a damaged domain. Defining precise mechanisms of viscerovisceral cross-sensitization would have implications for the development of effective pharmacological therapies for the treatment of functional disorders with chronic pelvic pain such as irritable bowel syndrome and painful bladder syndrome. The complexity of overlapping neural pathways and possible mechanisms underlying pelvic organ crosstalk are analyzed in this review at both systemic and cellular levels.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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