Effects of gabapentin on muscle spasticity and both induced as well as spontaneous autonomic dysreflexia after complete spinal cord injury

Alexander G. Rabchevsky, Samir P. Patel, Travis S. Lyttle, Khalid C. Eldahan, Christopher R. O'Dell, Yi Zhang, Phillip G. Popovich, Patrick H. Kitzman, Kevin D. Donohue

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


We recently reported that the neuropathic pain medication, gabapentin (GBP; Neurontin), significantly attenuated both noxious colorectal distension (CRD)-induced autonomic dysreflexia (AD) and tail pinch-induced spasticity compared to saline-treated cohorts 2-3 weeks after complete high thoracic (T4) spinal cord injury (SCI). Here we employed long-term blood pressure telemetry to test, firstly, the efficacy of daily versus acute GBP treatment in modulating AD and tail spasticity in response to noxious stimuli at 2 and 3 weeks post-injury. Secondly, we determined whether daily GBP alters baseline cardiovascular parameters, as well as spontaneous AD events detected using a novel algorithm based on blood pressure telemetry data. At both 14 and 21 days after SCI, irrespective of daily treatment, acute GBP given 1 h prior to stimulus significantly attenuated CRD-induced AD and pinch-evoked tail spasticity; conversely, acute saline had no such effects. Moreover, daily GBP did not alter 24 h mean arterial pressure (MAP) or heart rate (HR) values compared to saline treatment, nor did it reduce the incidence of spontaneous AD events compared to saline over the three week assessment period. Power spectral density (PSD) analysis of the MAP signals demonstrated relative power loss es in mid frequency ranges (0.2-0.8 Hz) for all injured animals relative to low frequency MAP power (0.02-0.08 Hz). However, there was no significant difference between groups over time post-injury; hence, GBP had no effect on the persistent loss of MAP fluctuations in the mid frequency range after injury. In summary, the mechanism(s) by which acute GBP treatment mitigate aberrant somatosensory and cardiophysiological responses to noxious stimuli after SCI remain unclear. Nevertheless, with further refinements in defining the dynamics associated with AD events, such as eliminating requisite concomitant bradycardia, the objective repeatability of automatic detection of hypertensive crises provides a potentially useful tool for assessing autonomic function pre- and post-SCI, in conjunction with experimental pharmacotherapeutics for neuropathic pain, such as GBP.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberArticle 329
JournalFrontiers in Physiology
Volume3 AUG
StatePublished - 2012

Bibliographical note

Copyright 2012 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Blood pressure
  • Colorectal distension
  • Heart rate
  • Neuropathic pain
  • Power spectral density
  • Telemetry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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