Mechanosensitive Afferent Units in the Lumbar Posterior Longitudinal Ligament

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Abstract

Study Design.

The mechanosensitive afferent units in the lumbar posterior longitudinal ligament were investigated in an animal model using an electrophysiologic technique.

Objectives.

The objectives of this study were to identify the mechanosensitive receptive fields in the lumbar posterior longitudinal ligament and to investigate their distribution and characteristics.

Summary of Background Data.

The lumbar posterior longitudinal ligament has a nerve network originating from the sinuvertebral nerve. These fibers are thin, and most of their terminals are free nerve endings. Some immunohistochemical studies have indicated that they are immunoreactive to calcitonin gene-related peptide and/or substance P, suggesting a nociceptive function. Most of these studies investigated morphologic aspects, and there have been few studies employing electrophysiologic techniques to examine mechanosensitive units.

Methods.

We used 13 adult cats. They were anesthetized and then laminectomy was performed. The L5 and L6 dorsal rootlets were draped over a recording electrode. To investigate the receptive fields in the posterior longitudinal ligament, afferent impulses were evoked by mechanical stimulation with a glass probe. When the receptive fields were located, they were stimulated electrically to obtain conduction velocity and were stimulated with a set of 17 nylon filaments to determine their mechanical thresholds.

Results.

Thirteen units were identified in the lumbar posterior longitudinal ligament. The majority of the units were located around the intervertebral disc level of the posterior longitudinal ligament. The mean mechanical threshold was 47.04 ± 15.25 g. According to the conduction velocities of the units, 12 units were classified into Group III (0.5–2.5 m/sec) and one unit into Group IV (2.5–20 m/sec).

Conclusion.

Mechanosensitive units classified into Group III or Group IV and with a high mechanical threshold (>7.0 g) were thought to act as nociceptive units. All units identified in this study satisfied these criteria. Our result suggests that afferent fibers from the lumbar posterior longitudinal ligament have a principally nociceptive function.

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