Cerda, S. E., C. Y. Tong, D. D. Deal and J. C. Eisenach. A physiologic assessment of intrathecal amitriptyline in sheep. Anesthesiology. 86:1094-1103, 1997.

Background: Intrathecal injection of amitriptyline enhances antinociception from intravenous morphine and reduces neuropathic pain behavior in animals. This study represents part of a preclinical assessment of intrathecal amitriptyline to determine its safety for use in humans. Methods: Low thoracic intrathecal, femoral, and pulmonary arterial catheters were inserted in 18 adult ewes, followed 96 h later by intrathecal injection of saline or 5 mg amitriptyline and by determination of spinal cord blood now, hemodynamic variables, behavioral changes, cerebrospinal fluid concentrations of catecholamines and amitriptyline, and spinal tissue concentrations of amitriptyline. In six other ewes, low thoracic intrathecal and femoral arterial catheters were inserted and blood pressure and heart rate were measured after intrathecal injection of saline or 0.25, 1, or 5 mg amitriptyline. Four other ewes received cervical intrathecal injection of 5 and 10 mg amitriptyline, and antinociception was determined. Results: Thoracic intrathecal injection of amitriptyline produced dose-dependent sedation but did not significantly affect spinal cord blood flow or hemodynamic variables. Spinal cord tissue concentrations of amitriptyline were 100 times greater in tissue near the tip of the thoracic intrathecal catheter compared with cervical cord tissue, Cerebrospinal fluid concentrations of catecholamines did not significantly change after amitriptyline was administered, Cervical intrathecal injection of 5 mg amitriptyline produced mild antinociception, whereas 10 mg produced intense sedation and, in one sheep, seizures and death. Conclusions: Although other preclinical toxicity studies are necessary before introducing intrathecal amitriptyline for use in humans, this study did not reveal dangerous changes in blood pressure or spinal cord blood flow from this agent.