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Eur Spine J. 2009 Dec;18(12):1978-85. doi: 10.1007/s00586-009-1064-z. Epub 2009 Jun 19.

Comparison of neuropathic pain and neuronal apoptosis following nerve root or spinal nerve compression.

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Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Fukushima Medical University School of Medicine, 1-Hikarigaoka, Fukushima City, Fukushima, 960-1295, Japan.


Altered dorsal root ganglion (DRG) function is associated with neuropathic pain following spinal nerve injury. However, compression of the cauda equina and dorsal rhizotomy proximal to the DRG do not induce significant pain, whereas in the spinal nerve and peripheral nerve, injury distal to the DRG does induce neuropathic pain. Caspase signaling induces apoptosis, and caspase inhibitors prevent pain-related behavior. The degree of DRG neuronal apoptosis is thought to play a role in pain behavior. We suggest that differences in pain behavior according to the injury sites within the DRG may be related to imbalances in apoptotic injuries. The aim of this study was to determine which compression injury was more painful and to compare behavior with expression of tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha in DRG and apoptosis in the DRG following crush injury to the L5 nerve root or L5 spinal nerve. Sprague-Dawley rats received a crush injury to the L5 spinal nerve (distal to the DRG), crush injury to the L5 nerve root (proximal to the DRG), or no crush injury (sham). Mechanical allodynia was determined by the von Frey test. Expression of TNF-alpha was compared among three groups using immunoblot findings. Furthermore, we compared the percentage of neurons injured in the DRG using immunostaining for apoptotic cells and localization of activated caspase 3. Mechanical allodynia was observed in both crush injury groups. The duration of mechanical allodynia in the distal crush group was significantly longer than in the proximal crush group (P < 0.05). TNF-alpha expression was increased in DRG neurons following injury. DRG apoptosis in the distal crush group was significantly higher than in the proximal group at each time point (P < 0.05). This study suggests that spinal nerve crush injuries produce a greater degree of DRG apoptosis than do corresponding nerve root crush injuries, and that the former injuries are associated with longer lasting mechanical allodynia. Thus, differences in the time course of mechanical allodynia might be associated with an imbalance in DRG apoptosis.

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