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American Society for Action on Pain

UI - 000104

AU - Young RF

AU - Chambi VI

TI - Pain relief by electrical stimulation of the periaqueductal and periventricular gray matter.

Evidence for a non-opioid mechanism

AB - Pain relief following stimulation of the periaqueductal gray matter (PAG) or periventricular gray

matter (PVG) in man has been ascribed to stimulation-induced release of endogenous opioid substances.

Forty-five patients were studied and followed for at least 1 year after placement of chronic stimulating

electrodes in the PAG or PVG to determine if pain relief due to stimulation could be ascribed to an

endogenous opioid mechanism. Three criteria were assessed: the development of tolerance to stimulation;

the possibility of cross-tolerance to morphine; and reversibility of stimulation-induced pain relief by the

opiate antagonist naloxone. Sixteen patients (35.6%) developed tolerance to stimulation, that is, they

obtained progressively less effective pain relief. Twelve (44.4%) of 27 patients undergoing stimulation of the

thalamic sensory relay nuclei for treatment of chronic pain (a presumably non-opioid mechanism) also

developed tolerance. Morphine sulfate was administered in a blind, placebo-controlled protocol to 10

patients who had become tolerant to PAG-PVG stimulation and none showed evidence of cross-tolerance.

Fifteen of 19 patients, already tolerant to morphine at the time of PAG-PVG electrode implantation,

experienced excellent pain relief by stimulation, also indicating a lack of cross-tolerance. Twenty-two

patients who experienced excellent pain relief from chronic PAG-PVG stimulation received intravenous

naloxone in a double-blind, placebo-controlled protocol. Pain intensity as assessed by the visual analog scale

was increased to the same degree by both placebo and naloxone. Eight patients showed no increase in pain

intensity with either placebo or naloxone. Although tolerance to PAG-PVG stimulation developed in these

patients, the frequency of tolerance was similar to that seen in patients undergoing thalamic sensory nuclear

stimulation. Since the latter technique presumably relieves pain by a non-opioid mechanism, the development

of tolerance to PAG-PVG stimulation does not, in itself, confirm an opioid mechanism. Cross-tolerance

between PAG-PVG stimulation and morphine was not seen and cross-tolerance to PAG-PVG stimulation in

patients already tolerant to morphine was rare. The pain-relieving effect of PAG-PVG stimulation was

reversed to an approximately equal degree by naloxone and placebo. The authors do not believe that, in

most patients, pain relief elicited by PAG-PVG stimulation depends on an endogenous opioid mechanism. It

appears that other, non-opioid mechanisms are primarily responsible for such pain relief

SO - Journal of Neurosurgery 1987;66:364-371