Radiosurgery to the spinal dorsal root ganglion induces fibrosis and inhibits satellite glial cell activation while preserving axonal neurotransmission

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  • 1 Departments of Neurosurgery and
  • 3 Radiation Oncology, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center; and
  • 2 University of Pittsburgh Medical School, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
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OBJECTIVE

Stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) has been used to treat trigeminal neuralgia by targeting the cisternal segment of the trigeminal nerve, which in turn triggers changes in the gasserian ganglion. In the lumbar spine, the dorsal root ganglion (DRG) is responsible for transmitting pain sensitivity and is involved in the pathogenesis of peripheral neuropathic pain. Therefore, radiosurgery to the DRG might improve chronic peripheral pain. This study evaluated the clinical and histological effects of high-dose radiosurgery to the DRG in a rodent model.

METHODS

Eight Sprague-Dawley rats received either 40- or 80-Gy SRS to the fifth and sixth lumbar DRGs using the Leksell Gamma Knife Icon. Animals were euthanized 3 months after treatment, and the lumbar spine was dissected and taken for analysis. Simple histology was used to assess collagen deposition and inflammatory response. GFAP, Neu-N, substance P, and internexin were used as a measure of peripheral glial activation, neurogenesis, pain-specific neurotransmission, and neurotransmission in general, respectively. The integrity of the spinothalamic tract was assessed by means of the von Frey test.

RESULTS

The animals did not exhibit any signs of motor or sensory deficits during the experimentation period. Edema, fibrosis, and vascular sclerotic changes were present on the treated, but not the control, side. SRS reduced the expression of GFAP without affecting the expression of Neu-N, substance P, or internexin. The von Frey sensory perception elicited equivalent results for the control side and both radiosurgical doses.

CONCLUSIONS

SRS did not alter sensory or motor function but reduced the activation of satellite glial cells, a pathway for DRG-mediated pain perpetuation. Radiosurgery provoked changes equivalent to the effects of focal radiation on the trigeminal ganglion after SRS for trigeminal neuralgia, suggesting that radiosurgery could be successful in relieving radiculopathic pain.

ABBREVIATIONS DRG = dorsal root ganglion; PBS = phosphate-buffered saline; RIPN = radiation-induced peripheral neuropathy; SRS = stereotactic radiosurgery.

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Contributor Notes

Correspondence Peter C. Gerszten: University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Pittsburgh, PA. gerspc@upmc.edu.

INCLUDE WHEN CITING Published online January 31, 2020; DOI: 10.3171/2019.11.SPINE191176.

Disclosures Dr. Lunsford is a stockholder of AB Elekta and serves on the Data Safety Monitoring Board of Insightec.

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