Background

Chronic postsurgical pain is a poorly recognized outcome of surgery where patients experience pain long after healing from the surgical insult. Descending control of nociception, a phenomenon whereby application of a strong nociceptive stimulus to one part of the body of animals inhibits pain in remote body regions, offers one strategy to identify a propensity to develop chronic postsurgical pain-like behavior. Here, consomic rat panel was used to test the hypothesis that pain persistence is mechanistically linked to ineffective descending control of nociception.

Methods

Male and female Brown Norway, Dahl S, and eight consomic strains (SS-xBN) were used to determine the presence of chronic postsurgical pain-like behaviors by using paw-withdrawal threshold evaluation (von Frey method) in the area adjacent to a hind paw plantar incision. Descending control of nociception was assessed by measuring hind paw-withdrawal thresholds (Randall–Selitto method) after capsaicin (125 µg) injection into a forepaw. Consomic rats were developed by introgressing individual Brown Norway chromosomes on the Dahl S rat genetic background, as Dahl S rats lack preoperative descending control of nociception.

Results

Substitution of several chromosomes from the “pain-resistant” Brown Norway to the “pain-prone” Dahl S/Medical College of Wisconsin reduced mechanical nociceptive sensitivity and increased endogenous pain modulation capacity by differing degrees. Statistical modeling of these data revealed that descending control of nociception is a poor general predictor of the propensity to develop chronic postsurgical pain-like behavior (poor fit for model 1). However, a significant strain-by-descending control of nociception interaction was revealed (model 3, −2*log likelihood; 550.668, −2ll change; 18.093, P = 0.034) with SS-13BN and SS-15BN strains showing a negative descending control of nociception relationship with chronic postsurgical pain-like behavior.

Conclusions

Descending control of nociception poorly predicted which rat strains developed chronic postsurgical pain-like behavior despite controlling for genetic, environmental, and sex differences. Two consomic strains that mimic clinical chronic postsurgical pain criteria and display a strong negative correlation with descending control of nociception were identified, offering novel candidates for future experiments exploring mechanisms that lead to chronic postsurgical pain.

Editor’s Perspective
What We Already Know about This Topic
  • Descending control of nociception is a measure of diffuse noxious inhibitory controls in conscious animals

  • The question of whether ineffective descending control of nociception can predict persistent pain-like behavior is incompletely explored in animal models of chronic postsurgical pain

What This Article Tells Us That Is New
  • Substitution of several chromosomes from “pain-resistant” to “pain-prone” rat strains reduced mechanical nociception and increased endogenous pain modulation capacity by differing degrees in eight consomic rat strains

  • Descending control of nociception was a poor predictor to identify rat strains developing persistent pain-like behavior in animal models of chronic postsurgical pain

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