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Papers of the Week

Papers: 24 Feb 2024 - 1 Mar 2024

2024 Feb 27



Vagus nerve stimulation rescues persistent pain following orthopedic surgery in adult mice.


Wu PY, Caceres AI, Chen J, Sokoloff J, Huang M, Baht GS, Nackley AG, Jordt SE, Terrando N


Postoperative pain is a major clinical problem imposing a significant burden on patients and society. In a survey 2 years after orthopedic surgery, 57% of patients reported persisting postoperative pain. However, only limited progress has been made in the development of safe and effective therapies to prevent the onset and chronification of pain after orthopedic surgery. We established a tibial fracture mouse model that recapitulates clinically relevant orthopedic trauma surgery, which causes changes in neuropeptide levels in dorsal root ganglia and sustained neuroinflammation in the spinal cord. Here, we monitored extended pain behavior in this model, observing chronic bilateral hindpaw mechanical allodynia in both male and female C57BL/6J mice that persisted for >3 months after surgery. We also tested the analgesic effects of a novel, minimally invasive, bioelectronic approach to percutaneously stimulate the vagus nerve (termed percutaneous vagus nerve stimulation [pVNS]). Weekly pVNS treatment for 30 minutes at 10 Hz for 3 weeks after the surgery strongly reduced pain behaviors compared with untreated controls. Percutaneous vagus nerve stimulation also improved locomotor coordination and accelerated bone healing. In the dorsal root ganglia, vagal stimulation inhibited the activation of glial fibrillary acidic protein-positive satellite cells but without affecting microglial activation. Overall, these data provide novel evidence supportive of the use of pVNS to prevent postoperative pain and inform translational studies to test antinociceptive effects of bioelectronic medicine in the clinic.