Edema of the spinal cord following experimental impact trauma

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✓ Identification of central nervous system edema is based on increased water content in relation to nonvolatile residue per unit weight. Nonvolatile residue in spinal cord tissue following impact trauma was determined to ascertain the magnitude and persistence of edema. High and low thoracic laminectomies were carried out on each of 17 rhesus monkeys. The lower exposed cord was traumatized with a calibrated blow of 300 gm cm. All upper exposed cords and the lower exposed cord in one monkey served as nontraumatized controls. At time intervals of 5 minutes to 20 days after trauma, cord segments were removed and assayed for water content. Increased tissue water was evident within 5 minutes and persisted for 15 days. By the 20th day it had essentially subsided. Increased tissue water content in the traumatized segment reached a maximum of 7.4% over control values at 5 days and then gradually diminished. These findings support the concept that edema following spinal trauma is unrelated to secondary effects of ischemia after 18 hours. The protracted course of increased water content (15 to 20 days) was unexpected and may indicate that edema-reducing measures should be continued for 2 to 3 weeks following spinal cord trauma with severe neurological dysfunction.

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Address reprint requests to: David Yashon, M.D., Division of Neurological Surgery, Ohio State University, 410 West Tenth Avenue, Columbus, Ohio 43210.

© AANS, except where prohibited by US copyright law.

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    Graph showing percentage increase in water content of the spinal cord following impact trauma (300 gm cm).

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