BACKGROUND CONTEXT: Healthy nerves are able to stretch and glide as responses to normal physiological movement. Injury to the nerve may alter the nerve's mechanical properties and result in neuropathy. Whether cauda equina compression alters the mechanical properties of the sciatic nerve is still unclear.
PURPOSE: The purpose of this study was to demonstrate the changes in excursions and strains of the sciatic nerve in vivo after acute cauda equina compression was induced by epidural balloon compression.
STUDY DESIGN: An animal comparative study with induced cauda equina compression was designed for in situ measurements of nerve properties.
METHODS: Twenty-six adult Sprague-Dawley rats were divided into three groups. The balloon group (n=10) underwent epidural compression induced by inflation of an embolectomy balloon catheter that was inserted through an L6 laminotomy. The control group (n=10) underwent laminotomy but without compression. The normal group (n=6) received no back surgery. This model of neuropathy was confirmed with electrophysiological examination. The excursions and strains of the sciatic nerve in response to the modified straight leg-raising (SLR) test were measured in situ and analyzed.
RESULTS: The scales of the excursions were lower in the balloon group than in the other two groups, in both 90 degrees flexion and extension of the knee. The balloon group was more sensitive to positional changes. The strain was significantly higher under the condition of epidural balloon compression.
CONCLUSIONS: We concluded that cauda equina compression decreased the excursion and increased the strain of the sciatic nerve in response to a modified SLR test. These findings might indicate one of the mechanisms of the pain provoked by the SLR test and also possibly contribute to an understanding of the pathogenesis of the neuropathy in the lower limbs of patients with cauda equina compression