Endorphins have been implicated in the pathophysiology of both spinal cord injury and cerebral ischemia. This review examines the nature of the experimental evidence to support this hypothesis. Present studies suggest that naloxone administration improves neurological function and outcome in the setting of the spinal cord trauma by centrally inhibiting an opiate receptor-mediated diminution of spinal cord flow. In the setting of spinal shock, naloxone administration is associated with improvement in vital sign and cardiovascular parameters as measured by mean arterial pressure, cardiac output, body temperature, and ventilation. Experiments using a variety of animal stroke models similarly support the notion that naloxone improves neurological function in the setting of cerebral ischemia by a stereospecific opiate receptor-mediated effect, but this improvement does not seem to be accompanied by augmentation of blood flow to affected areas of the brain or by any improvement in vital signs or cardiovascular parameters as seen in spinal cord trauma. A variety of mechanisms are discussed to explain these observations. The therapeutic implications of administering opiate agonists and antagonists in the setting of neurological deficits are outlined for the neurosurgeon.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Clinical Neurology