Gabapentin for Spasticity and Autonomic Dysreflexia after Severe Spinal Cord Injury

Spinal Cord and Brain Injury Research Center, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY 40536-0509, USA.
Spinal Cord (Impact Factor: 1.7). 01/2011; 49(1):99-105. DOI: 10.1038/sc.2010.67
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Using a complete transection spinal cord injury (SCI) model at the fourth thoracic vertebral level in adult rats, we evaluated whether blocking noxious stimuli below the injury diminishes abnormal somatic and autonomic motor reflexes, manifested in muscular spasticity and hypertensive autonomic dysreflexia, respectively. Gabapentin (GBP) is well tolerated and currently used to manage neuropathic pain in the SCI population; evidence suggests that it acts to decrease presynaptic glutamate release. As clinical evidence indicates that GBP may suppress muscular spasticity in the chronic SCI population, we hypothesized that preventing neurotransmission of noxious stimuli with GBP eliminates a critical physiological link to these distinct, debilitating SCI-induced secondary impairments.
Behavioural assessments of tail muscle spasticity and mean arterial blood pressure responses to noxious somatic and/or visceral stimulation were used to test the effects of GBP on these abnormal reflexes.
Lexington, Kentucky.
We used femoral artery catheterization and radio-telemetric approaches to monitor blood pressure alterations in response to noxious colorectal distension (CRD) weeks after complete SCI.
At 2-3 weeks post-SCI, acute GBP administration (50 mg kg(-1), i.p.) significantly attenuated both autonomic dysreflexia and tail spasticity induced by noxious stimuli compared with saline-treated cohorts.
These results show, for the first time, that a single-pharmacological intervention, GBP, can effectively attenuate the manifestation of both muscular spasticity and autonomic dysreflexia in response to noxious stimuli.

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    ABSTRACT: Spinal cord injury (SCI) results not only in motor and sensory deficits but also in autonomic dysfunctions. The disruption of connections between higher brain centers and the spinal cord, or the impaired autonomic nervous system itself, manifests a broad range of autonomic abnormalities. This includes compromised cardiovascular, respiratory, urinary, gastrointestinal, thermoregulatory, and sexual activities. These disabilities evoke potentially life-threatening symptoms that severely interfere with the daily living of those with SCI. In particular, high thoracic or cervical SCI often causes disordered hemodynamics due to deregulated sympathetic outflow. Episodic hypertension associated with autonomic dysreflexia develops as a result of massive sympathetic discharge often triggered by unpleasant visceral or sensory stimuli below the injury level. In the pelvic floor, bladder and urethral dysfunctions are classified according to upper motor neuron versus lower motor neuron injuries; this is dependent on the level of lesion. Most impairments of the lower urinary tract manifest in two interrelated complications: bladder storage and emptying. Inadequate or excessive detrusor and sphincter functions as well as detrusor-sphincter dyssynergia are examples of micturition abnormalities stemming from SCI. Gastrointestinal motility disorders in spinal cord injured-individuals are comprised of gastric dilation, delayed gastric emptying, and diminished propulsive transit along the entire gastrointestinal tract. As a critical consequence of SCI, neurogenic bowel dysfunction exhibits constipation and/or incontinence. Thus, it is essential to recognize neural mechanisms and pathophysiology underlying various complications of autonomic dysfunctions after SCI. This overview provides both vital information for better understanding these disorders and guides to pursue novel therapeutic approaches to alleviate secondary complications. © 2014 American Physiological Society. Compr Physiol 4: 1419-1453, 2014.

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