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Prog Neurobiol. 1999 Apr;57(6):583-606.

Bladder afferent pathway and spinal cord injury: possible mechanisms inducing hyperreflexia of the urinary bladder.

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Department of Pharmacology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, PA 15261, USA.


Lower urinary tract dysfunction is a common problem in patients with spinal cord injury (SCI). Since the coordination of the urinary bladder and urethra is controlled by the complex mechanisms in spinal and supraspinal neural pathways, SCI rostral to the lumbosacral level disrupts voluntary and supraspinal control of voiding and induces a considerable reorganization of the micturition reflex pathway. Following SCI, the urinary bladder is initially areflexic. but then becomes hyperreflexic because of the emergence of a spinal micturition reflex pathway. Recent electrophysiologic and histologic studies in rats have revealed that chronic SCI induces various phenotypic changes in bladder afferent neurons such as: (1) somal hypertrophy along with increased expression of neurofilament protein; and (2) increased excitability due to the plasticity of Na+ and K+ ion channels. These results have now provided detailed information to support the previous notion that capsaicin-sensitive, unmyelinated C-fiber afferents innervating the urinary bladder change their properties after SCI and are responsible for inducing bladder hyperreflexia in both humans and animals. It is also suggested that the changes in bladder reflex pathways following SCI are influenced by neural-target organ interactions probably mediated by neurotrophic signals originating in the hypertrophied bladder. Thus, increased knowledge of the plasticity in bladder afferent pathways may help to explain the pathogenesis of lower urinary tract dysfunctions after SCI and may provide valuable insights into new therapeutic strategies for urinary symptoms in spinal cord-injured patients.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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