Structural alterations of nerve during cuff compression

Peter James Dyck, Alfred C. Lais, Caterina Giannini, Janean K. Engelstad

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

73 Scopus citations


Whether compression nerve injury is due to ischemia, direct mechanical injury, or both remains unsettled. To assess structural changes of nerve during compression, peroneal nerves of rats were compressed at various pressures for different times, and the structural alterations were stopped by simultaneous in situ and perfusion fixation. The structural changes observed during a few minutes of compression cannot be explained by ischemic injury because the pathologic alterations characteristic of ischemia take many hours to develop and in any case are different from the ones found here. The pressure- and time-related structural changes observed in the present study under the cuff were (i) decrease in fascicular area and increase in fiber density due to expression of endoneurial fluid; (ii) compression and expression of axoplasm, sometimes to the point of fiber transection; (iii) lengthening of internodes; and (iv) obscuration of nodes of Ranvier due to cleavage and displacement of myelin and overlapping of nodes by displaced loops of myelin. At the edges of the cuff the changes were (i) increase of fascicular area probably from expressed endoneurial fluid; (ii) widening of nodal gaps, perhaps mainly from translocated axonal fluid; and (iii) disordered structure of axoplasm. We suggest that the process of paranodal demyelination and axonal transection are linked, occur during the act of compression, and are due to shear forces. The initial event is expression of endoneurial fluid, followed by compression and expression of axoplasm and cleavage and displacement of layers of myelin. Conceivably, with prolonged cuff compression ischemic injury might be found to be superimposed on mechanical injury.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9828-9832
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number24
StatePublished - 1990


  • Axonal degeneration
  • Nerve compression
  • Segmental demyelination
  • Shear forces

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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