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Anesth Prog. 1993 ; 40(1): 14-9.

Auricular electrical stimulation and dental pain threshold.

Simmons MS, Oleson TD.

Department of Orofacial Pain and Occlusion, UCLA School of Dentistry.

A modified double-blind evaluation of naloxone reversibility of dental analgesia produced by auricular electrical stimulation (AES) was examined in 40 subjects assigned randomly to one of four groups: AES followed by saline (AS), AES followed by naloxone (AN), placebo AES followed by saline (PS), and placebo AES followed by naloxone (PN). Dental pain threshold was tested using a hand-held dental pulp tester. A second investigator administered the true or placebo AES using an electrical stimulator. A third investigator injected intravenously saline or naloxone. The subjects and investigators 1 and 3 were blind to all treatment conditions. A repeated measures analysis of variance revealed a significant difference among the four groups. The AES groups exhibited a statistically significant 18% elevation of pain threshold, whereas the two placebo stimulation groups (PS and PN) remained essentially unchanged. The mean pain threshold increased to more than 23% for group AS, but fell to less than 12% for the subjects in group AN, who were given naloxone. These findings indicate a small but significant elevation of pain threshold by AES, an effect partially blocked by naloxone, suggesting an endogenous opioid system as one mechanism for AES analgesia.

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