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Keywords:

  • experimental model;
  • hyperalgesia;
  • morphine;
  • oxycodone;
  • pain

WHAT IS ALREADY KNOWN ABOUT THIS SUBJECT

• Previous studies using short-lasting experimental pain stimulations in healthy volunteers have shown differences in opioid effects regarding visceral pain stimulations. However, these differences can be more pronounced in patients due to a sensitized pain system. Therefore, the aim of the present study was to mimic the clinical situation by investigating opioid effects on experimental pain in healthy volunteers after experimentally evoked hyperalgesia.

WHAT THIS STUDY ADDS?

• We now know that morphine and oxycodone exerts different effects in the sensitized pain system as we found a greater analgesic effect of oxycodone in response to skin, muscle and oesophageal pain stimulation. This supports clinicians' experiences that oxycodone can be superior to morphine in the treatment of some pain conditions. The evoked hyperalgesia bridged findings from studies in healthy volunteers to patients, and new fundamental knowledge on different analgesic effects in hyperalgesia was found.

AIM

Similar analgesics may have different analgesic potencies especially in patients in whom the pain system is sensitized. The aim was to investigate different opioid effects on experimental pain after the sensitized pain system was mimicked evoking hyperalgesia in healthy volunteers.

METHODS

Twenty-four healthy volunteers were randomized to treatment with morphine (30 mg orally) and oxycodone (15 mg orally) or placebo in a double-blind crossover study. Hyperalgesia was induced by oesophageal perfusion with acid and capsaicin. Several exploratory endpoints were studied using skin heat, muscle pressure and oesophageal mechanical, heat and electrical stimulation. Effects on pain from deeper structures were considered most important.

RESULTS

Different analgesic potencies were found. Oxycodone had a greater analgesic effect than morphine attenuating pain from: (i) heat stimulation of skin (P= 0.016); difference between the means of 0.39°C, 95% CI 0.22, 2.09. (ii) muscle pressure (P < 0.001); difference between the means of 11.93kPa, 95% CI 5.4, 18.5. (iii) oesophageal heat stimulation (P < 0.001); difference between the means of 38.54 cm2, 95% CI 15.37, 61.71 and (iv) oesophageal electrical stimulation (P= 0.016); difference between the means of 6.69mA, 95% CI 1.23, 12.13.

CONCLUSION

After sensitization of the pain system different analgesic potencies of morphine and oxycodone were found in response to skin, muscle and oesophageal pain stimulation, in which oxycodone had a greater effect. As similar differential analgesic potencies of the two opioids have been found in patients with chronic pain, the experimental hyperalgesia model bridged findings from studies in healthy volunteers to patients.