George, R. P., Howarth, G. S., Whittaker, A. L. 2019. Use of the rat grimace scale to evaluate visceral pain in a model of chemotherapy-induced mucositis. Animals 9(9), 678.

The rat grimace scale (RGS) is a measure of spontaneous pain that evaluates pain response. The ability to characterize pain through a non-invasive method has considerable utility for numerous animal models of disease, including mucositis, a painful, self-limiting side-effect of chemotherapy treatment. Preclinical studies investigating novel therapeutics for mucositis often focus on pathological outcomes and disease severity. These investigations fail to measure pain, in spite of reduction of pain being a key clinical therapeutic goal. This study assessed the utility of the RGS for pain assessment in a rat model of mucositis, and whether changes in disease activity index (DAI) and open field test (OFT) reflected the grimace responses recorded. Sixty tumor-bearing female Dark Agouti rats were injected with either saline or 5-Fluourouracil alone, or with co-administration of opioid analgesics. Whilst differences in DAI were observed between treatment groups, no difference in RGS scores or OFT were demonstrated. Significant increases in grimace scores were observed across time. However, whilst a statistically significant change may have been noted, the biological relevance is questionable in terms of practical usage, since an observer is only able to score whole numbers. Development of effective pain assessment methods in animal models is required to improve welfare, satisfy regulatory requirements, and increase translational validity of the model to human patients.

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