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Central nervous system monoaminergic activity in hip osteoarthritis patients with disabling pain: associations with pain severity and central sensitization



Monoaminergic activity modulates nociceptive transmission in the central nervous system (CNS). Although pain is the most disabling symptom of osteoarthritis (OA), limited knowledge exists regarding the CNS mechanisms that amplify pain and drive sensitization processes in humans.


The main objective of this study was to evaluate associations between cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) monoamine metabolites, pain severity, and central sensitization in patients with OA undergoing total hip arthroplasty (THA).


Patients with OA (n = 52) and pain-free controls (n = 30) provided CSF samples for measurement of serotonin (5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid [5-HIAA]), noradrenaline (3-methoxy-4-hydroxyphenylglycol [HMPG]), and dopamine (homovanillic acid [HVA]) monoamine metabolites. Patients with OA completed longitudinal evaluation of pain using clinical measures and quantitative sensory testing.


Patients with OA had higher HMPG levels when compared with controls (P = 0.036). Within patients with OA undergoing THA, higher 5-HIAA and HVA levels were consistently associated with higher preoperative pain severity. Higher concentrations of 5-HIAA and HVA were also associated with lower conditioned pain modulation levels, whereas higher HMPG levels were linked to more efficient conditioned pain modulation. Patients with higher levels of CSF HVA exhibited increased pressure pain sensitivity (arm pressure pain detection threshold < 250 kPa vs ≥ 250 kPa, P = 0.042). Higher preoperative levels of CSF 5-HIAA predicted poorer pain control 6 months postoperatively (brief pain inventory pain severity; adjusted β = 0.010, 95% CI 0.001-0.019).


In OA patients with disabling pain, higher CSF levels of serotonin and dopamine metabolites are associated with increased pain severity and central sensitization. Increased noradrenergic activity may be associated with more efficient pain inhibitory capacity.

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