Is Chemonucleolysis in the Cervical Spine more Dangerous than in the Lumbar Spine? (Experimental Study)

  • P. Wehling
  • M. A. Pak
  • E. N. Hanley
  • K. P. Schulitz
Conference paper


Electrically evoked compound action potentials were used to quantify the neurophysiological abnormalities caused by application of collagenase and chymopapain in rats. A branch of the sciatic nerve was stimulated with voltage impulses of constant amplitude and duration at the right external malleolus. The responses were recorded at different levels of the spine.

We used 0.1 ml of a solution of 1 ml = 1000 units collagenase (Sigma chem. comp.) and 5000 i.u. chymopapain (Woelm-pharma) for the evaluation of the neurophysiological effects. A total amount of 0.1 ml was injected into the rats spinal canal intrathrecally. The control rats were subjected to exactly the same stimulus and recording procedures but the test solution was a corresponding volume of isotonic saline.

Two hours after application there was no change in amplitude or latency of the evoked compound action potentials in the collagenase group compared to the control, although 3 of the animals developed paresis. These findings are in contrast to the increase of latency in spinal cord evoked potentials after 20 minutes in rats treated with chymopapain.

Our study indicates that collagenase acts specifically upon central nerve tissue whereas chymopapain causes nonspecific damage of central and peripheral nerve structures. We conclude that chemonucleolysis in the cervical spine by these 2 enzymes is of higher risk because here central nerve structures are close to the site of injection. This is in contrast to the lumbar spine.

Further investigation should focus on long-term follow up and on the role of the motorneuron and the ventral roots in the development of neurological complications after intrathecal injections of collagenase and chymopapain.


Lumbar Spine Cervical Spine Intrathecal Injection Ventral Root Evoke Compound Action Potential 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • P. Wehling
    • 1
  • M. A. Pak
    • 1
  • E. N. Hanley
    • 2
  • K. P. Schulitz
    • 1
  1. 1.DüsseldorfFederal Republic of Germany
  2. 2.PittsburghUSA

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