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Photochemically-induced ischemic injury of the rat sciatic nerve: A light- and electron microscopic study

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Lesion of presumably ischemic origin of the rat sciatic nerve was induced photochemically by laser irradiation combined with systemic administration of a photosensitizing organic dye, erythrosin B. We have studied the pathologic features of the nerve after the photochemical insult with light- and electronmicroscopy and related them to behavioral signs of neuropathic pain. At the irradiated nerve site, occlusion of blood vessels was seen and the vessels were packed with aggregated thrombocytes, fibrins and deformed erythrocytes, supporting the notion that photochemical reaction caused intraneural ischemia. The degree of the nerve injury at the center of irradiation was related to the duration of the laser exposure. Brief irradiation (30 seconds) only caused identifiable injury to myelinated fibers, whereas longer irradiation (2 minutes) caused greater injury to myelinated and unmyelinated fibers, characterized by extensive axonal degeneration and demyelination. The rats irradiated for 2 minutes, but not 30 seconds, exhibited neuropathic pain-like behaviors, expressed as mechanical and cold allodynia. The nerve injury was most severe 7 days after ischemia and regeneration of both myelinated and unmyelinated fibers was observed 3 months later. The nerve caudal to the irradiation exhibited Wallerian degeneration 7 days after the insult, whereas at 10 mm proximal to the irradiation the nerve was largely normal. It is thus concluded that photochemically induced intraneural ischemia caused injury to both myelinated and unmyelinated fibers, with myelinated fibers being more susceptible. However, the development of neuropathic pain-like behaviors may require injury to the unmyelinated fibers.
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Keywords: degeneration; demyelination; electron microscopy; ischemia; neuropathy; pain; photochemical; regeneration

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 1, 2000

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