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J Neuropathol Exp Neurol. 1993 Sep;52(5):452-9.

Spatial distribution of nerve injury after occlusion of individual major vessels in rat sciatic nerves.

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Department of Medicine, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand.


In an attempt to better understand the spatial distribution of ischemic injury secondary to occlusion of major arteries, we measured nerve blood flow (NBF) and studied morphologic changes at various levels distal to the ligature site. Arterial ligation of the femoral, internal iliac, or superior gluteal artery was preceded and followed by measurement of NBF using laser Doppler flowmetry which helped identify "watershed areas" and guided the sampling process as nerves were examined pathologically and areas of injury were identified. Femoral artery ligation produced the most severe ischemia, focally reducing NBF by 80% in the tibial nerve at a level just below the knee. Within these ischemic nerve segments there were degenerative changes of nerve fibers seen mainly in the subperineurial region. Ligation of the internal iliac artery caused an approximately 60% reduction in NBF at the upper and mid-thigh levels of the sciatic nerve which resulted only in endoneurial edema in tissue taken at this level. Following superior gluteal artery ligation. NBF was reduced by only 20% at the pelvic level of the sciatic nerve and there was neither endoneurial edema nor fiber abnormalities. This study demonstrates the watershed pattern of ischemic injury associated with single vessel ligation by correlating neuropathologic change with quantitative measures of local nerve blood flow. The data further support the concept that mild levels of ischemia cause endoneurial edema, while moderate levels of ischemia produce demyelination and severe ischemia produces Wallerian degeneration.

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