Dichotomous locomotor recoveries are predicted by acute changes in segmental blood flow after thoracic spinal contusion injuries in pigs

Andrea J. Santamaria, Francisco D. Benavides, Kyle R. Padgett, Luis G. Guada, Yohjan Nunez-Gomez, Juan P. Solano, James D. Guest

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Neuroimaging facilitates the translation of animal pre-clinical research to human application. The large porcine spinal cord is useful for testing invasive interventions. Ideally, the safety and efficacy of a delayed intervention is tested in pigs that have recovered sufficiently after spinal cord injury (SCI) to allow either deterioration or improvement of function to be detected. We set out to create moderate severity T9 injuries in Yucatan minipigs by conducting a bridging study adapting methods previously developed in infant piglets. The injury severity was varied according to two pneumatic impactor parameters: the piston compression depth into tissue or the velocity. To stratify locomotor recovery, a 10-point scale used in prior piglet studies was redefined through longitudinal observations of spontaneous recovery. Using hindlimb body weight support to discriminate injury severity, we found that end-point recovery was strongly bimodal to either non-weight-bearing plegia with reciprocating leg movements (<5/10) or recovery of weight bearing that improved toward a ceiling effect (≥ 8/10). No intermediate recovery animals were observed at 2 months post-injury. The ability of intra-operative ultrasound and acute magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to provide immediate predictive feedback regarding tissue and vascular changes following SCI was assessed. There was an inverse association between locomotor outcome and early gray matter hemorrhage on MRI and ultrasound. Epicenter blood flow following contusion predicted recovery or non-recovery of weight-bearing. The depth of the dorsal cerebrospinal fluid space, which varied between animals, influenced injury severity and confounded the results in this fixed-stroke paradigm.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1399-1415
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of neurotrauma
Issue number9
StatePublished - May 1 2019


  • MRI
  • blood flow
  • cerebrospinal fluid
  • locomotor score
  • spinal cord injury
  • ultrasound

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology


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