Experimental spinal cord ischemia: Model characterization and improved outcome with arterial hypertension

Thomas J.K. Toung, Yi Chang, Mel Williams, Barbara J. Crain, Richard J. Traystman, Anish Bhardwaj

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Objective: Paraplegia from spinal cord ischemia is a devastating complication of thoracoabdominal aortic aneurysm repair. Perioperative hypoperfusion of the spinal cord is a critical determinant of residual neurologic deficits. We determined if functional and histologic outcome is dependent on systemic blood pressure in a rat model of spinal cord ischemia. Design: Randomised, controlled, prospective study. Setting: Research laboratory at a university teaching hospital. Subjects: Adult male Wistar rats. Interventions: Endotracheally intubated adult male Wistar rats (300-450 g) anesthetized with halofhane underwent a thoracotomy and placement of a clip across the descending aorta for 27 mins. Mean proximal arterial blood pressure (MPABP) was monitored with a cannula placed in the left common carotid artery. Halothane was adjusted (1.25-1.5%) to maintain MPABP between 70 and 90 mm Hg (n = 20) or 140 and 150 mm Hg (n = 20). Sham-operated rats (n = 10) had a thoracotomy without aortic clamping at an MPABP of 70-90 mm Hg. Following 1, 24, 48, and 72 hrs of recovery from anesthesia, motor function of the hind paws was scored as follows: 0, no evidence of deficit; 1, toes flat under body when walking but with ataxia; 2, knuckle walks; 3, movements in hind limbs but unable to knuckle walk; 4, no movement, drags hind limbs. Body temperature was maintained between 37 and 38°C throughout the experiment. Measurements and Main Results: All sham operated rats with MPABP 70-30 mm Hg recovered without neurologic deficits, whereas those that underwent aortic occlusion with MPABF between 70 and 90 mm Hg emerged from anesthesia with grade 3 and 4 deficits and remained in this condition without improvement at 72 hr. Histopathology at 72 hrs demonstrated moderate to severe neuronal loss with involvement of dorsal, intermediate, and ventral horns. Only eight of 20 rats that underwent aortic occlusion with MPABP between 140 and 150 mm Hg had grade 1 and 2 deficits on emergence but had no neurologic deficit after 1 hr. Most of the surviving neurons in these animals appeared normal histologically, particularly motor neurons around the periphery of the ventral horn. Conclusions: Systemic blood pressure is a critical determinant of outcome following spinal cord ischemia, and controlled perioperative blood pressure augmentation may ameliorate neurologic deficits in patients who undergo thoracoabdominal vascular procedures and are at risk for spinal cord hypoperfusion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1346-1351
Number of pages6
JournalCritical care medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Aorta
  • Cord
  • Ischemia
  • Paraplegia
  • Rat
  • Spine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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