Current Issue - September/October - Vol 21 Issue 5


  1. 2018;21;E509-E521Enhanced Pain Sensitivity with Systemic Ultrastructural Changes of the Nervous Systems after Cobra Venom Injection is Reversed by Electroacupuncture Treatment
    Experimental Study
    Guo-fang Lu, MD, Jun-ming Zhang, MD, Jian-xiong An, MD, PhD, Xiao-yan Qian, CRNA, Yong Wang, MD, Si-yu Lin, MD, and John P. Williams, MD.

BACKGROUND: Electroacupuncture (EA) has been proved to be effective in treating certain neuropathic pain conditions. The mechanisms of pain relief by EA are not fully understood. There have been sporadic reports of damage in the peripheral nervous system (PNS) and regions of the central nervous system (CNS) at the ultrastructural level following peripheral nerve injury. However, information about possible systemic changes in the PNS and CNS after nerve injury is scarce.

OBJECTIVES: The goal of this study was to examine the ultrastructural changes of the nervous system induced by a local injection of cobra venom into the sciatic nerve and to compare the ultrastructural changes in rats with or without treatment with EA or pregabalin.

STUDY DESIGN: An experimental study.

SETTING: Department of Anesthesiology, Pain Medicine, and Critical Care Medicine, Aviation General Hospital of China Medical University.

METHODS: In this study, using an established model of sciatic neuralgia induced by local injection of cobra venom into the sciatic nerve, we examined ultrastructural changes of the PNS and CNS and how they respond to EA and pregabalin treatment. EA and pregabalin were given daily from postoperative day (POD) 14 to 36. Based on previous works, the frequency of EA stimulation of the ST36 and GB34 acupoints was held to 2/100 Hz variable. Pain sensitivity in the sciatic neuralgia rats with and without treatments was assessed using the von Frey test. Ultrastructural alterations were examined bilaterally in the prefrontal cortex, hippocampus, medulla oblongata; and the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar spinal cords on PODs 14, 40, and 60. Ultrastructural examinations were also carried out on the bilateral sciatic nerves and dorsal root ganglion (DRG) at the cervical, thoracic and lumbar levels. In rats treated with EA or pregabalin, the ultrastructure was examined on PODs 40 and 60.

RESULTS: Behavioral signs of pain and systemic ultrastructural changes including demyelination were observed at all levels of the PNS and CNS in rats with sciatic neuralgia. After intervention, the mechanical withdrawal thresholds of the EA group and pregabalin group were significantly higher than that of the cobra venom group (P < 0.05). Both EA and pregabalin treatments partially reversed increased cutaneous sensitivity to mechanical stimulation. However, only the EA treatment was able to repair the ultrastructural damages caused by cobra venom.

LIMITATIONS: The results confirm that peripheral nerve injury led to the ultrastructural damage at different levels of the CNS as demonstrated with electron microscopy; however, we need to further verify this at both the molecular level and in light microscope level. Sciatic neuralgia induced by cobra venom is a chemical injury, and whether this exactly mimics a peripheral nerve mechanical injury is still unclear.

CONCLUSIONS: Local cobra venom injection leads to systemic neurotoxicity. EA and pregabalin alleviate pain via different mechanisms.

KEY WORDS: Sciatic neuralgia, cobra venom, demyelination, electroacupuncture, pregabalin, rat model