Systemic naloxone infusion may trigger spasticity in patients with spinal cord injury: Case series

Nancy L. Brackett, Emad Ibrahim, Andrei Krassioukov, Charles M. Lynne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Background/Objective: Three patients with spinal cord injury (SCI) and 3 able-bodied (AB) patients were infused with naloxone during a study to examine their neuroendocrine function. An unanticipated side effect occurred during the naloxone infusion. All 3 patients with SCI, but none of the AB patients, experienced profoundly increased spasticity during the naloxone infusion. Our report describes this side effect, which has potential implications for the clinical treatment or scientific evaluation of individuals with SCI. Methods: All patients were in good general health and medication free for 11 days or longer before the study. Each patient was placed on a 30-hour protocol to analyze pulsatile release of gonadotropins. Physiologic saline was intravenously infused on day 1 to serve as a control period for naloxone infusion on day 2. Results: AB patients experienced no muscle spasm activity or any other side effects at any time during the study. In contrast, all 3 patients with SCI experienced a profoundly increased frequency and duration of spasticity in muscles innervated by the nerve roots caudal to their level of injury. In all 3 patients with SCI, spasticity increased only during the period of naloxone infusion. Within 1 hour of stopping naloxone, spasticity returned to baseline levels. Conclusions: Naloxone infusion produced a differential effect on the muscle activity of men with SCI compared to AB men with intact spinal circuits. Consistent with previous studies, the results of this study indicate a relationship between opioid neuromodulation and spasticity after SCI.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)272-275
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Spinal Cord Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2007


  • Endorphins
  • Naloxone
  • Opioid
  • Spasticity
  • Spinal cord injuries

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology


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