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The aim of the present study was to investigate changes in contralateral nerves associated with peripheral nerve injuries. Transection and subsequent regeneration of the saphenous nerve on one side caused a suppression of the ability of the contralateral saphenous nerve to produce a neurogenic plasma extravasation response. This effect was transient, and was first evident two weeks after injury, reaching its maximum at four weeks, but was no longer detectable at eight weeks. This change was paralleled by a decrease in the content of substance P, a neuropeptide involved in neurogenic plasma extravasation, in the contralateral nerve. The neurotoxin capsaicin was used to deplete the nerve of a subclass of C-fibres, namely the polymodal nociceptor afferents. Pretreatment of the nerve to be lesioned with capsaicin was sufficient to significantly attenuate the changes in the plasma extravasation response and substance P content observed on the contralateral side. The effectiveness of the capsaicin treatment was confirmed by histological examination. These results strongly suggest that changes observed at a site distant from the location of the nerve injury are dependent on the integrity of capsaicin-sensitive C-fibre afferents within the injured nerve. Furthermore, given that the contralateral nerve has commonly been used as the control for an injury conducted on the homologous nerve or muscle on the opposite side of the body, the underlying assumption being that the contralateral nerve remained unchanged, the present findings emphasize the need for separate groups of control animals which have undergone no surgical procedures.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





535 - 541


Animals, Capillary Permeability, Capsaicin, Coloring Agents, Denervation, Functional Laterality, Male, Neuritis, Neurons, Afferent, Nociceptors, Peripheral Nerve Injuries, Peripheral Nerves, Plasma, Radioimmunoassay, Rats, Rats, Wistar, Signal Transduction, Skin, Substance P