Effects of tramadol on T lymphocyte proliferation and natural killer cell activity in rats with sciatic constriction injury

Yu Chuan Tsai, Shen Jeu Won

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63 Citations (Scopus)


We investigated the effects of acute and chronic tramadol treatment on T lymphocyte function and natural killer (NK) cell activity in rats receiving chronic constriction injury (CCI) of the sciatic nerve. T lymphocyte function was evaluated based on concanavalin-A (ConA)- and phytohemagglutinin (PHA)-induced splenocyte proliferation. NK cell activity was measured by lactic acid dehydrogenase release assay. The effects of tramadol on thermal hyperalgesia were also assessed by measuring paw withdrawal latency (PWL) in the rats. PWL was dose-dependently reversed by tramadol after acute treatment (single subcutaneous injection) with 10, 20, and 30 mg/kg, respectively. There was no significant change among acute treatment groups in NK cell activity, whereas splenocyte proliferation induced by ConA and PHA was significantly suppressed starting from a dose of 20 mg/kg. The reversal of the thermal hyperalgesia persisted throughout a period of chronic tramadol treatment of 40 and 80 mg/kg per day, respectively, with continuous subcutaneous infusion for 7 days at a uniform rate via osmotic minipumps. No modulation of NK cell activity was found in either dose group. However, the activity of splenocyte proliferation was decreased in the 80 mg/kg per day group when compared with the saline and 40 mg/kg per day groups. These data suggest that tramadol treatment has an immunological profile different from pure μ-opioid agonists like morphine, which is known to suppress both NK cell activity and T lymphocyte proliferation at a subanalgesic dose in CCI rats. Considering analgesic and immunosuppressive effects, tramadol treatment may be a better choice than morphine for treatment of chronic neuropathic pain, particularly in patients with compromised immunity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)63-69
Number of pages7
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 2001

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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