Nerve root dysfunction and sciatic pain in disc herniation are considered to be caused by mechanical compression and related to the presence of nucleus pulposus in the epidural space. Autologous nucleus pulposus has been shown to induce endoneural edema and to decrease nerve-conduction velocity in spinal nerve roots in experimental disc herniation models, and inflammatory mediators have been suggested to be involved in these mechanisms. Nitric oxide, a potent inflammatory mediator, is implicated in vasoregulation, neurotransmission, and neuropathic pain. Nitric oxide synthesis can be induced by different cytokines, e.g., tumor necrosis factor-α, which recently was shown to be of pathophysiological importance in experimental disc herniation. The enzyme nitric oxide synthase mediates the production of nitric oxide. Three series of experiments were performed in rat and pig disc herniation models to (a) investigate nitric oxide synthase activity in spinal nerve roots after exposure to autologous nucleus pulposus and (b) evaluate the effects of systemic treatment with aminoguanidine, a nitric oxide synthase inhibitor, on vascular permeability and nerve-conduction velocity. In a disc herniation model in the rat, calcium-independent nitric oxide synthase activity was measured in nerve roots exposed to nucleus pulposus; however, no nitric oxide synthase activity was detected in nerve roots from animals that underwent a sham operation, reflecting increased inducible nitric oxide synthase activity. In nucleus pulposus-exposed spinal nerve roots in the pig, the edema was less severe after systemic aminoguanidine administration than without aminoguanidine treatment. Aminoguanidine treatment also significantly reduced the negative effect of nucleus pulposus on nerve-conduction velocity in spinal nerve roots in the pig. These results demonstrate that nucleus pulposus increases inducible nitric oxide synthase activity in spinal nerve roots and that nitric oxide synthase inhibition reduces nucleus pulposus-induced edema and prevents reduction of nerve-conduction velocity. Furthermore, the results suggest that nitric oxide is involved in the pathophysiological effects of nucleus pulposus in disc herniation.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Orthopedics and Sports Medicine