Neurophysiology of Visceral Pain

  • G. F. Gebhart


Visceral pain differs significantly from the more commonly experienced and better understood somatic pain that arises from cutaneous structures. Whereas somatic pain is generally easy to localize, visceral pain is diffuse in nature, poorly localized and typically referred to cutaneous and/or other somatic structures. Most importantly, visceral pain is not linked to tissue injury, as is cutaneous pain. Indeed, early researchers concluded that injury to visceral organs did not produce pain, advancing the erroneous postulate that the viscera were insensate. While it has long been appreciated that the principal sensations that arise from the viscera are discomfort and pain, we have only recently begun to understand the function of the sensory innervation of the viscera. Because few clinical or basic scientists have focused efforts on the study of visceral pain, knowledge specific to visceral pain (as opposed to cutaneous pain, for which models were readily available) has been slow to accumulate. However, recent developments have led to a better understanding of visceral pain (1).


Irritable Bowel Syndrome Interstitial Cystitis Visceral Pain Spinal Neuron Sensory Innervation 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • G. F. Gebhart
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Pharmacology College of MedicineUniversity of IowaIowa CityUSA

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