Effect of Intravenous Alfentanil on Nonpainful Thermally Induced Hyperalgesia in Healthy Volunteers

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Abstract

Experimental interventions that activate specific components of clinical pain are necessary for characterization of underlying mechanisms and pharmacology. Cutaneous hyperalgesia has been described that uses nonpainful heat to induce secondary hyperalgesia. This study evaluated the effect of intravenous alfentanil on experimental cutaneous hyperalgesia created using this method. Eighteen subjects participated in a randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled crossover study consisting of 2 sessions, 1 with alfentanil and 1 with placebo. Using a computer-controlled infusion pump, alfentanil or matching placebo was maintained at a constant plasma level of 75 ng/mL for 1 hour followed by the application of a 40°C heat stimulus to the right thenar eminence for 15 minutes. The temperature was raised by 1°C every 15 minutes until the subject reported pain or 45°C was reached. After the end point was reached, the temperature was maintained, and repeat testing was performed. The nonpainful heat created an area of secondary cutaneous hyperalgesia and significant decrease in mechanical pain threshold on heat-treated right vs untreated left during placebo administration. Alfentanil prevented the hypersensitivity when compared to placebo (P < .05) but failed to reduce the area of secondary hyperalgesia created by nonpainful heat when compared to placebo (P = .06). Neither alfentanil nor the heat lamp treatment showed any significant effect on other neurosensory measures. This study demonstrated a reliable production of cutaneous hyperalgesia using a nonpainful stimulus that is affected by the systemic delivery of alfentanil. This model for human cutaneous experimental pain may be a useful method for scientific characterization of analgesics.

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