Takana Koshi, Seiji Ohtori, Gen Inoue, Toshinori Ito, Masaomi Yamashita, Kazuyo Yamauchi, Munetaka Suzuki, Yasuchika Aoki, Kazuhisa Takahashi

March 2010, Volume 19, Issue 4, pp 593 - 600 Original Article Read Full Article 10.1007/s00586-009-1237-9

First Online: 12 December 2009

Degeneration of lumbar intervertebral discs is thought to be a cause of low back pain. Studies have found that a cause of discogenic low back pain is intervertebral disc inflammation and axonal growth of afferent fibers innervating the disc. Lumbar spine fusion for chronic discogenic low back pain is considered an effective procedure. However, no study has investigated the mechanism of pain relief. We did this by applying Fluoro-Gold (FG) to the ventral aspect of the L4–L5 intervertebral discs of 40 rats. We exposed the nucleus pulposus to the annulus fibrosus in a disc punctured model. Rats were divided into 4 groups. Group A: Punctured intervertebral disc with sham posterolateral fusion (PLF) (n = 10), Group B: Punctured intervertebral disc with PLF (n = 15), Group C: Normal intervertebral disc (no puncture) with PLF (n = 10), and Group D: Normal disc (no disc puncture) with sham PLF (n = 5). Four weeks after surgery, bilateral L1–L5 dorsal root ganglia (DRGs) were stained with growth-associated protein 43 (GAP43), a marker of axonal growth, and calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP), a neuropeptide marker of pain. Bone union was evaluated using X-ray imaging. Of the FG-labeled neurons, the proportions of GAP43- and CGRP-immunoreactive (IR) neurons in Group A were significantly higher than in Group D (P  0.05). PLF is strongly related to the downregulation of GAP43 and CGRP expression. Therefore, PLF may suppress the increase of inflammatory neuropeptides and the process of axonal growth. Moreover, these results may explain, in part, the mechanism of pain relief following lumbar spinal fusion for chronic discogenic low back pain in humans.

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