Action of isoflurane on the substantia gelatinosa neurons of the adult rat spinal cord

Ayako Wakai, Tatsuro Kohno, Tomohiro Yamakura, Manabu Okamoto, Toyofumi Ataka, Hiroshi Baba
Anesthesiology 2005, 102 (2): 379-86

BACKGROUND: Although isoflurane, a volatile anesthetic, can block the motor response to noxious stimulation (immobility and analgesia) and suppress autonomic responsiveness, how it exerts these effects at the neuronal level in the spinal cord is not fully understood.

METHODS: The effects of a clinically relevant concentration (1 rat minimum alveolar concentration [MAC]) of isoflurane on electrically evoked and spontaneous excitatory/inhibitory transmission and on the response to exogenous administration of the gamma-aminobutyric acid type A receptor agonist muscimol were examined in lamina II neurons of adult rat spinal cord slices using the whole cell patch clamp technique. The effect of isoflurane on the action potential-generating membrane property was also examined.

RESULTS: Bath-applied isoflurane (1.5%, 1 rat MAC) diminished dorsal root-evoked polysynaptic but not monosynaptic excitatory postsynaptic currents. Glutamatergic miniature excitatory postsynaptic currents were also unaffected by isoflurane. In contrast, isoflurane prolonged the decay phase of evoked and miniature gamma-aminobutyric acid type A receptor-mediated inhibitory postsynaptic currents and increased the amplitude of the muscimol-induced current. Isoflurane had little effect on action potential discharge activity.

CONCLUSIONS: Isoflurane augments gamma-aminobutyric acid-mediated inhibitory transmission, leading to a decrease in the excitability of spinal dorsal horn neurons. This may be a possible mechanism for the antinociceptive effect of isoflurane in the spinal cord.

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