Constitutive cyclo-oxygenase-2 does not contribute to the development of human visceral pain hypersensitivity

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Background and aims:

Central sensitisation (CS), contributes to the development and maintenance of gastrointestinal pain hypersensitivity. Constitutive cyclo-oxygenase-2 (COX-2) contributes to central sensitisation in somatic pain hypersensitivity but its role in mediating visceral pain hypersensitivity is unknown. We therefore conducted a study to determine if COX-2 inhibition with Valdecoxib attenuates the development or early maintenance of CS in a validated human oesophageal pain hypersensitivity model.


Healthy volunteers were studied in two randomised, double blind, crossover studies in which pain thresholds (PT) to electrical stimulation were assessed in the proximal oesophagus, chest wall and foot, prior to and following a distal oesophageal acid infusion. Protocol 1: Valdecoxib, (40 mg) or matching placebo was given orally for 4 days prior to oesophageal acid infusion. Protocol 2: IV Parecoxib (40 mg) or saline was given 120 min after oesophageal acid infusion.


Valdecoxib did not prevent the induction of secondary allodynia in the proximal oesophagus nor did it attenuate it following its establishment. Chest wall PT fell following oesophageal acid but foot PT remained unchanged; highlighting the development viscero-somatic convergence due to CS. Valdecoxib had no analgesic or anti-hyperalgesic effect on chest wall or foot PT.


Neither the induction nor initial maintenance of acid induced oesophageal pain hypersensitivity is prevented by Valdecoxib, suggesting that constitutive spinal COX-2 does not contribute to the development or early maintenance of acute visceral central sensitisation.

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