Brain functional magnetic resonance imaging of rectal pain and activation of endogenous inhibitory mechanisms in irritable bowel syndrome patient subgroups and healthy controls

Wilder-Smith, C. H.; Schindler, D.; Lovblad, K.; Redmond, S. M.; Nirkko, A.
December 2004
Gut;Dec2004, Vol. 53 Issue 12, p1595
Academic Journal
Background and aims: Many patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) show intestinal hypersensitivily to distension and sensitisation after repeated intestinal distensions. Abnormalities in endogenous pain inhibitory mechanisms, such as diffuse noxious inhibitory controls (DNIC), may be implicated and were investigated during brain functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Patients and methods: fMRI was performed in 10 female patients with IBS (five constipated (IBS-C) and five with diarrhoea (IBS-D)) and 10 female healthy controls during rectal balloon distension alone or during activation of DNIC by painful heterotopic stimulation of the foot with ice water. Rectal pain was scored with and without heterotopic stimulation (0= none, 10= maximal). Results: Heterotopic stimulation decreased median rectal pain scores significantly in healthy controls (-1.5 (interquartile range -2 to -1); p = 0.001) but not in IBS-C (-0.7 (-1 to 0.5)), IBS-D (-0.5 (-1.5 to 0.5)), or in all IBS patients (0 (-1.5 to 1.3)). Brain activation changes during heterotopic stimulation differed highly significantly between IBS-C, IBS-D, and controls. The main centres affected were the amygdala, anterior cingulate cortex, hippocampus, insula, periaqueductal gray, and prefrontal cortex, which form part of the matrix controlling emotional, autonomic, and descending modulatory responses to pain. Conclusions: IBS-C and IBS-D appear to have differing abnormal endogenous pain inhibitory mechanisms, involving DNIC and other supraspinal modulatory pathways.


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