Studies on the safety of chronically administered intrathecal neostigmine methylsulfate in rats and dogs

T. L. Yaksh, M. R. Grafe, S. Malkmus, M. L. Rathbun, J. C. Eisenach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

118 Scopus citations


Background: The spinal delivery of the cholinesterase inhibitor neostigmine yields analgesia in rats and augments the analgesic effects of α2 agonists in sheep. To assess its activity in humans, preclinical toxicology studies to define its safety were required in two species. Methods: Rats with chronic intrathecal catheters received daily injections of saline (vehicle) or 5 μg/10 μl or 10 μg/10 μl neostigmine HC1 (n = 6/group) for 4 days and were observed for general behavior and nociception (52.5°C hot plate). On day 6, rats were anesthetized and submitted to whole body perfusion/fixation. For dog studies, male beagles were prepared following rigid aseptic precautions with catheters passed from the cisterna magna to the lumbar intrathecal space. Catheters were connected to an external vest-mounted pump. Based on preliminary studies, ten implanted dogs were randomly assigned to receive infusions of neostigmine for 28 days (4 mg/4 ml/day; n = 6) or saline (4 ml/day; n = 4). At 28 days, dogs were anesthetized, cisternal cerebrospinal fluid was obtained, and dogs were submitted to perfusion-fixation. Rat and dog spinal cords were embedded, sectioned, stained,and assessed by the pathologist without knowledge of treatment. Results: In rats, neostigmine produced a dose-dependent increase in hot plate latency, and no tolerance was observed. Mild tremor was observed but was not debilitating. Histopathology revealed a mild fibrotic reaction to the catheter with mixed signs of moderate, acute, and chronic inflammation with no differences between saline or drug groups. In dogs, neostigmine had no effect on blood pressure or on the skin twitch response but produced bradycardia and an increase in muscle tone. At sacrifice, cerebrospinal fluid protein, specific gravity, and glucose were elevated in both saline and neostigmine groups. Histopathology displayed a local reaction to the spinal catheter and a mixed acute and chronic inflammatory reaction. No group differences were observed. These results suggest that, at the neostigmine concentration of 1 mg/ml in the rat and dog and in doses up to 4 mg/day in the dog, there is no evidence of spinal tissue toxicity that can be attributed to the drug. This result, observed in two species, suggests that intrathecal neostigmine given in this manner is without distinguishable toxicity in these two models.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)412-427
Number of pages16
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1995
Externally publishedYes


  • Animal: dog; rat; sheep
  • Neostigmine: blood flow; intrathecal
  • Toxicology: neostigmine; spinal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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