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J Headache Pain. 2010 December; 11(6): 477–483.
Published online 2010 October 27. doi:  10.1007/s10194-010-0263-7
PMCID: PMC2995862

A potential nitrergic mechanism of action for indomethacin, but not of other COX inhibitors: relevance to indomethacin-sensitive headaches


Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) that act as cyclo-oxygenase (COX) inhibitors are commonly used in the treatment of a range of headache disorders, although their mechanism of action is unclear. Indomethacin is of particular interest given its very special effect in some primary headaches. Here the in vivo technique of intravital microscopy in rats has been utilised as a model of trigeminovascular nociception to study the potential mechanism of action of indomethacin. Dural vascular changes were produced using electrical (neurogenic) dural vasodilation (NDV), calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) induced dural vasodilation and nitric oxide (NO) induced dural vasodilation using NO donors. In each of these settings the effect of intravenously administered indomethacin (5 mg kg−1), naproxen (30 mg kg−1) and ibuprofen (30 mg kg−1) was tested. All of the tested drugs significantly inhibited NDV (between 30 and 52%). Whilst none of them was able to inhibit CGRP-induced dural vasodilation, only indomethacin reduced NO induced dural vasodilation (35 ± 7%, 10 min post administration). We conclude NSAIDs inhibit release of CGRP after NDV without an effect on CGRP directly. Further we describe a differentiating effect of indomethacin inhibiting nitric oxide induced dural vasodilation that is potentially relevant to understanding its unique action in disorders such as paroxysmal hemicrania and hemicrania continua.

Keywords: Trigeminal, NSAID, COX, Headache, Vasodilation, Rat

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Selected References

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