Pain assessment in animal models: Do we need further studies?

Carmelo Gigliuto, Manuela De Gregori, Valentina Malafoglia, William Raffaeli, Christian Compagnone, Livia Visai, Paola Petrini, Maria Antonietta Avanzini, Carolina Muscoli, Jacopo Viganò, Francesco Calabrese, Tommaso Dominioni, Massimo Allegri, Lorenzo Cobianchi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the last two decades, animal models have become important tools in understanding and treating pain, and in predicting analgesic efficacy. Although rodent models retain a dominant role in the study of pain mechanisms, large animal models may predict human biology and pharmacology in certain pain conditions more accurately. Taking into consideration the anatomical and physiological characteristics common to man and pigs (median body size, digestive apparatus, number, size, distribution and communication of vessels in dermal skin, epidermal-dermal junctions, the immunoreactivity of peptide nerve fibers, distribution of nociceptive and non-nociceptive fiber classes, and changes in axonal excitability), swines seem to provide the most suitable animal model for pain assessment. Locomotor function, clinical signs, and measurements (respiratory rate, heart rate, blood pressure, temperature, electromyography), behavior (bright/quiet, alert, responsive, depressed, unresponsive), plasma concentration of substance P and cortisol, vocalization, lameness, and axon reflex vasodilatation by laser Doppler imaging have been used to assess pain, but none of these evaluations have proved entirely satisfactory. It is necessary to identify new methods for evaluating pain in large animals (particularly pigs), because of their similarities to humans. This could lead to improved assessment of pain and improved analgesic treatment for both humans and laboratory animals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)227-236
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Pain Research
Publication statusPublished - May 8 2014


  • Experimental model
  • Pain assessment
  • Translational research

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine

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