The application of pulsed radiofrequency (PRF) close to the dorsal root ganglia, or peripheral nerves, has been demonstrated to be effective for the treatment of chronic neuropathic pain conditions. The goal of this study was to investigate the analgesic effect of immediate PRF treatment after nerve injury and its possible cellular alterations in the dorsal horn of the spinal cord in rats with spared nerve injury (SNI).
Neuropathic pain was achieved in a SNI neuropathic pain model by ligating and cutting the common peroneal and tibial branches of the left sciatic nerve, leaving the sural nerve intact. Wistar rats were divided into four groups that received different treatments, i.e., SNI and PRF for 6 min at 45 V (SNI + PRF-45 V), at 60 V (SNI + PRF-60 V), SNI alone, and sham groups. After the SNI surgery, each rat was immediately given the PRF treatment (500 kHz, rate of 2 Hz, 20 ms duration, temperature below 42 °C) on the left sciatic nerve 0.3-0.4 cm proximal to the injured site. The behavioral measurements included mechanical allodynia and cold allodynia of the ipsilateral hind paw and were performed during the 28 days that followed the SNI surgery and PRF treatment. Total extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1 and 2 (ERK1/2) and phospho-ERK1/2 were measured using Western blot in the ipsilateral spinal cord from animals in the different groups.
The three groups of rats with nerve injuries manifested a lower paw withdrawal threshold (PWT) in the behavioral measurement of mechanical allodynia and a shorter painful-behavior duration in the cold allodynia test over 28 days. Mechanical allodynia measurement showed that both the PRF-45 V and PRF-60 V treatment groups exhibited a more prominent antiallodynic effect than did the SNI group from days 1 to 28 after surgery. Similarly, in comparison with the SNI group, both the SNI + PRF-45 V and SNI + PRF-60 V groups had significant inhibition on the cold allodynia measurement from days 1 to 28 after surgery. Furthermore, the activation of the extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1 and 2 (ERK1/2) in the ipsilateral spinal dorsal horn of SNI rats was effectively inhibited in the SNI + PRF-45 V and SNI + PRF-60 V groups for 28 days after surgery.
Immediate PRF application on the proximal nerve injury site provided a significant inhibition of neuropathic pain formation, accompanied by the inhibition of ERK activation.