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J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg. 1986 Jan;91(1):71-8.

Relationship of spinal cord blood flow to vascular anatomy during thoracic aortic cross-clamping and shunting.


No satisfactory explanation exists as to why paraplegia occurs despite distal aortic perfusion during thoracic aortic operations. We studied the hemodynamics, paraplegia rate, and spinal cord blood flow with radioactive microspheres in 17 male adult baboons, with particular reference to the arteria radicularis magna. The groups consisted of control animals, subjected to cross-clamping for 60 minutes, and animals with aorto-aortic shunts operational for 60 minutes. There were no significant left ventricular hemodynamic advantages with shunting. Shunting significantly increased lumbar spinal cord blood flow (p = 0.0009), which correlated with the distal aortic mean pressure (r = 0.59, p = 0.008). However, lower thoracic spinal cord blood flow did not increase during shunting (p = 0.2) and did not correlate with the distal aortic pressure (r = 0.11, p = 0.64). This is due to the vascular anatomy of the anterior spinal artery, which was, as in man, smaller above (0.278 mm) than below (0.744 mm) the entry of the arteria radicularis magna. Resistance to flow, as calculated by Poiseuille's equation, was 51.7 times greater up the anterior spinal artery as compared with down this artery. The vascular anatomy explains the absence of paraplegia in one baboon in the cross-clamp group and paraplegia in one baboon in the shunt group. Thus, distal aortic perfusion protects the spinal cord below the arteria radicularis magna but not above it.

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