Carlson, G. D., K. E. Warden, J. M. Barbeau, E. Bahniuk, K. L. KutinaNelson, C. L. Biro, H. H. Bohlman and J. C. LaManna. Viscoelastic relaxation and regional blood flow response to spinal cord compression and decompression. Spine. 22:1285-1291, 1997.

Study Design. To better understand the relationships between primary mechanical factors of spinal cord trauma and secondary mechanisms of injury, this study evaluated regional blood flow and somatosensory evoked potential function in an in vivo canine model with controlled velocity spinal cord displacement and real-time piston-spinal cord interface pressure feedback. Objectives. To determine the effect of regional spinal cord blood flow and viscoelastic cord relaxation on recovery of neural conduction, with and without spinal cord decompression. Summary of Background Data. The relative contribution of mechanical and Vascular factors on spinal cord injury remains undefined. Methods. Twelve beagles were anesthetized and underwent T13 laminectomy. A constant velocity spinal cord compression was applied using a hydraulic loading piston with a subminiature pressure transducer rigidly attached to the spinal column. Spinal cord displacement was stopped when somatosensory evoked potential amplitudes decreased by 50% (maximum compression). Six animals were decompressed 5 minutes after maximum compression and were compared with six animals who had spinal cord displacement maintained for 3 hours and were not decompressed, Regional spinal cord blood flow was measured with a fluorescent microsphere technique. Results. At maximum compression, regional spinal cord brood flow at the injury site fell from 19.0 +/- 1.3 mL/100 g/min to 12.6 +/- 1.0 mL/100 g/min, whereas piston-spinal cord interface pressure was 30.5 +/- 1.8 kPa, and cord displacement measured 2.1 +/- 0.1 mm (mean +/- SE), Five minutes after the piston translation was stopped, the spinal cord interface pressure had dissipated 51%, whereas the somatosensory evoked potential amplitudes continued to decrease to 16% of baseline. In the sustained compression group, cord interface pressure relaxed to 13% of maximum within 90 minutes; however, no recovery of somatosensory evoked potential function occurred, and regional spinal cord blood flow remained significantly lower than baseline at 30 and 180 minutes after maximum compression. in the six animals that underwent spinal cord decompression, somatosensory evoked potential function and regional spinal cord blood flow recovered to baseline 30 minutes after maximum compression. Conclusions. Despite rapid cord relaxation of more than 50% within 5 minutes after maximum compression, somatosensory evoked potential conduction recovered only with early decompression. Spinal cord decompression was associated with an early recovery of regional spinel cord blood flow and somatosensory evoked potential recovery. By 3 hours, spinal cord blood flow was similar in both the compressed and decompressed groups, despite that somatosensory evoked potential recovery occurred only in the decompressed group.