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Premature infants are routinely exposed to invasive medical procedures during neonatal intensive care treatment that are largely performed in the absence of anesthetics or analgesics. Data collected to date suggest that exposure to early insult during this time of increased plasticity alters the development of the CNS and influences future pain responses. As previous studies examining the impact of neonatal injury on nociception have been conducted primarily in males, the potential adverse effects on females are not known. Therefore, the present studies were conducted to determine whether neonatal injury differentially impacts male and female sensory thresholds in adulthood. A short lasting inflammatory response was evoked in male and female rats on the day of birth with an injection of carrageenan (CGN; 1% or 2%) into the right hindpaw. Nociceptive thresholds were assessed using a noxious thermal stimulus at both adolescence (P40) and adulthood (P60). A more persistent inflammation was subsequently evoked in adult rats with an intraplantar injection of Complete Freund’s adjuvant (CFA). Neonatally injured females exhibited significantly greater hypoalgesia at P60, and displayed enhanced inflammatory hyperalgesia following re-injury in adulthood compared to neonatally injured males and controls. These results demonstrate that the long-term adverse effects of neonatal injury are exacerbated in females, and may contribute to the higher prevalence, severity and duration of pain syndromes noted in women compared to men.


This article was published in the journal Pain and is available to subscribers here: Copyright © 2007 International Association for the Study of Pain. Published by Elsevier B.V.

The post-print (post-peer-reviewed) version is posted here with permission of the author.