Hyperalgesia by low doses of the local anesthetic lidocaine involves cannabinoid signaling: An fMRI study in mice

Abstract Lidocaine is clinically widely used as a local anesthetic inhibiting propagation of action potentials in peripheral nerve fibers. Correspondingly, the functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) response in mouse brain to peripheral noxious input is largely suppressed by local lidocaine administered at doses used in a clinical setting. We observed, however, that local administration of lidocaine at doses 100× lower than that used clinically led to a significantly increased sensitivity of mice to noxious forepaw stimulation as revealed by fMRI. This hyperalgesic response could be confirmed by behavioral readouts using the von Frey filament test. The increased sensitivity was found to involve a type 1 cannabinoid (CB1) receptor-dependent pathway as global CB1 knockout mice, as well as wild-type mice pretreated systemically with the CB1 receptor blocker rimonabant, did not display any hyperalgesic effects after low-dose lidocaine. Additional experiments with nociceptor-specific CB1 receptor knockout mice indicated an involvement of the CB1 receptors located on the nociceptors. We conclude that low concentrations of lidocaine leads to a sensitization of the nociceptors through a CB1 receptor-dependent process. This lidocaine-induced sensitization might contribute to postoperative hyperalgesia.