Visceral and parietal peritoneum layers have different sensory innervations. Most visceral peritoneum sensory information is conveyed via the vagus nerve to the nucleus of the solitary tract (NTS). We already showed in animal models that intramuscular (i.m.) injection of local anesthetics decreases acute somatic and visceral pain and general inflammation induced by aseptic peritonitis. The goal of the study was to compare the effects of parietal block, i.m. bupivacaine, and vagotomy on spinal cord and NTS stimulation induced by a chemical peritonitis.
We induced peritonitis in rats using carrageenan and measured cellular activation in spinal cord and NTS under the following conditions, that is, a parietal nerve block with bupivacaine, a chemical right vagotomy, and i.m. microspheres loaded with bupivacaine. Proto-oncogene c-Fos (c-Fos), cluster of differentiation protein 11b (CD11b), and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) expression in cord and NTS were studied.
c-Fos activation in the cord was inhibited by nerve block 2 hours after peritoneal insult. Vagotomy and i.m. bupivacaine similarly inhibited c-Fos activation in NTS. Forty-eight hours after peritoneal insult, the number of cells expressing CD11b significantly increased in the cord (P = .010). The median difference in the effect of peritonitis compared to control was 30 cells (CI95, 13.5–55). TNF-α colocalized with CD11b. Vagotomy inhibited this microglial activation in the NTS, but not in the cord. This activation was inhibited by i.m. bupivacaine both in cord and in NTS. The median difference in the effect of i.m. bupivacaine added to peritonitis was 29 cells (80% increase) in the cord and 18 cells (75% increase) in the NTS. Our study underlines the role of the vagus nerve in the transmission of an acute visceral pain message and confirmed that systemic bupivacaine prevents noxious stimuli by inhibiting c-Fos and microglia activation.
In rats receiving intraperitoneal carrageenan, i.m. bupivacaine similarly inhibited c-Fos and microglial activation both in cord and in the NTS. Vagal block inhibited activation only in the NTS. Our study underlines the role of the vagus nerve in the transmission of an acute visceral pain message and confirmed that systemic bupivacaine prevents noxious stimuli. This emphasizes the effects of systemic local anesthetics on inflammation and visceral pain.