Intrathecal Catheterization in the Rat: Improved Technique for Morphologic Analysis of Drug-induced Injury

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BackgroundThe authors previously described an in vivo model suitable for investigation of functional impairment induced by intrathecally injected local anesthetic. However, meaningful histologic analysis could not be performed because catheterization, per se, induced morphologic changes in control animals. In the current experiments, the authors sought to identify an alternative, less reactive, catheterization technique for intrathecal drug administration.MethodsTwenty-five rats received an intrathecal infusion of normal saline through a catheter composed of either 28-gauge polyurethane, 32-gauge polyimide, 32-gauge polyurethane, PE-10 polyethylene, or PE-10 polyethylene that had been stretched to twice its original length. Seven days after infusion, sensory function was assessed using the tail-flick test, and the spinal cord and nerve roots were prepared for neuropathologic evaluation.ResultsThere was no significant difference in sensory function among groups. Animals in which 28-gauge polyurethane, 32-gauge polyimide, PE-10, and double-stretched PE-10 had been implanted had moderate to severe nerve injury in 11%, 14%, 23%, and 8% of fascicles, respectively, whereas none of the animals in which 32-gauge polyurethane was implanted had any evidence of moderate or severe damage.ConclusionsMorphologic changes induced by intrathecal catheterization in the rat can be minimized by the use of 32-gauge polyurethane tubing.

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