WEDNESDAY, July 26, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Long-term use of the painkiller ibuprofen after brain injury led to a decline in cognitive abilities in rats, a new study found.
The findings may have implications for the treatment of patients with traumatic brain injury, because they are often prescribed ibuprofen and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for chronic pain, said researchers from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.
They published their findings online in the July issue of Experimental Neurology.
Previous human and animal research has shown that long-term use of ibuprofen for inflammation improves outcomes for Alzheimer's disease patients by reducing symptoms and delaying the onset of dementia.
This prompted the University of Pennsylvania team to investigate whether ibuprofen would improve long-term cognitive outcomes in brain-injured rats.
The study focused on two groups of rats. Over four months, one group received ibuprofen in their food. The doses were proportional to those given to humans. The other group of rats did not receive ibuprofen. Both groups were tested on their ability to find an underwater platform in a maze, a common test used to measure cognitive ability in animals.
To their surprise, the researchers found that the rats that were given ibuprofen performed far worse than the other rats.
"Although most untreated injured animals could find the platform, they were much slower to learn its location than non-injured animals. In contrast, almost none of the treated, injured animals could find the platform at all," study author Dr. Douglas H. Smith, director of the Center for Brain Injury and Repair, said in a prepared statement.
The findings suggest that the effects of long-term NSAID treatment after brain injury are not well understood.
"We have to remember that these are animal studies, and what we can take home is that we need further examination of potential negative effects in patients," Smith said.
The American Academy of Neurology has more about brain injury.