The objective of this study was to compare the long-term histological and behavioral outcomes after spinal cord injury (SCI) induced by one of three distinct biomechanical mechanisms: dislocation, contusion, and distraction. Thirty male Sprague-Dawley rats were randomized to incur a traumatic cervical SCI by one of these three clinically relevant mechanisms. The injured cervical spines were surgically stabilized, and motor function was assessed for the following 8 weeks. The spinal cords were then harvested for histologic analysis. Quantification of white matter sparing using Luxol fast blue staining revealed that dislocation injury caused the greatest overall loss of white matter, both laterally and along the rostrocaudal axis of the injured cord. Distraction caused enlarged extracellular spaces and structural alteration in the white matter but spared the most myelinated axons overall. Contusion caused the most severe loss of myelinated axons in the dorsal white matter. Immunohistochemistry for the neuronal marker NeuN combined with Fluoro Nissl revealed that the dislocation mechanism resulted in the greatest neuronal cell losses in both the ventral and dorsal horns. After the distraction injury mechanism, animals displayed no recovery of grip strength over time, in contrast to the animals subjected to contusion or dislocation injuries. After the dislocation injury mechanism, animals displayed no improvement in the grooming test, in contrast to the animals subjected to contusion or distraction injuries. These data indicate that different SCI mechanisms result in distinct patterns of histopathology and behavioral recovery. Understanding this heterogeneity may be important for the future development of therapeutic interventions that target specific neuropathology after SCI.
- Behavior, Animal
- Fracture Dislocation/complications
- Rats, Sprague-Dawley
- Spinal Cord Injuries/etiology
- Spinal Fractures/complications