Burst and Tonic Spinal Cord Stimulation Both Activate Spinal GABAergic Mechanisms to Attenuate Pain in a Rat Model of Chronic Neuropathic Pain

Meuwissen, K.P.V.; de Vries, L.E.; Gu, J.W.; Zhang, T.C.; Joosten, E.A.J.

Pain Practice the Official Journal of World Institute of Pain 20(1): 75-87


ISSN/ISBN: 1533-2500
PMID: 31424152
DOI: 10.1111/papr.12831
Accession: 069252773

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Experimental and clinical studies have shown that tonic spinal cord stimulation (SCS) releases gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the spinal dorsal horn. Recently, it was suggested that burst SCS does not act via spinal GABAergic mechanisms. Therefore, we studied spinal GABA release during burst and tonic SCS, both anatomically and pharmacologically, in a well-established chronic neuropathic pain model. Animals underwent partial sciatic nerve ligation (PSNL). Quantitative immunohistochemical (IHC) analysis of intracellular GABA levels in the lumbar L4 to L6 dorsal spinal cord was performed after 60 minutes of burst, tonic, or sham SCS in rats that had undergone PSNL (n = 16). In a second pharmacological experiment, the effects of intrathecal administration of the GABAA antagonist bicuculline (5 μg) and the GABAB antagonist phaclofen (5 μg) were assessed. Paw withdrawal thresholds to von Frey filaments of rats that had undergone PSNL (n = 20) were tested during 60 minutes of burst and tonic SCS 30 minutes after intrathecal administration of the drugs. Quantitative IHC analysis of GABA immunoreactivity in spinal dorsal horn sections of animals that had received burst SCS (n = 5) showed significantly lower intracellular GABA levels when compared to sham SCS sections (n = 4; P = 0.0201) and tonic SCS sections (n = 7; P = 0.0077). Intrathecal application of the GABAA antagonist bicuculline (5 μg; n = 10) or the GABAB antagonist phaclofen (5 μg; n = 10) resulted in ablation of the analgesic effect for both burst SCS and tonic SCS. In conclusion, our anatomical and pharmacological data demonstrate that, in this well-established chronic neuropathic animal model, the analgesic effects of both burst SCS and tonic SCS are mediated via spinal GABAergic mechanisms.