Effect of nitroglycerin and cerebrospinal fluid drainage on spinal cord perfusion pressure and paraplegia during aortic cross-clamping

Corrado P. Marini, Ira M. Nathan, Jon Efron, Jon R. Cohen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


When sodium nitroprusside (SNP) is used to control proximal blood pressure (Px-BP) during cross-clamping (AXC) of the thoracic aorta, it decreases spinal cord perfusion pressure (SCPP) by reducing distal aortic pressure (Ds-BP) and increasing cerebrospinal fluid pressure (CSFP). The decrease cannot be reversed by CSF drainage (CSFD) because such drainage is limited by a reduction in compliance of the spinal canal. Nitroglycerin can also be used to control Px-BP, but its effect on CSF dynamics has not previously been investigated. In the present study we have compared the effects of NTG alone and in combination with CSFD, with SNP and CSFD. Each group (Gp) of six dogs was treated with SNP + CSFD (Gp 1), NTG alone (Gp 2), and NTG + CSFD (Gp 3). Left carotid and right femoral arteries were catheterized to monitor Px-BP and Ds-BP, respectively. CSFP was monitored and CSF was drained through a spinal needle placed in the cisterna cerebellomedullaris. The thoracic aorta was cross-clamped via a left thoracotomy for 60 min. Data were acquired at baseline, during aortic occlusion, and 24 hr after surgery. There were no significant differences in any measurements among the three groups before AXC; after AXC, Px-BP was maintained between 85 and 95 mm Hg in all groups. Ds-BP was significantly lower in Gp 1 than Gp 2 and 3 (7 ± 2 mm Hg vs. 13 ± 3 mm Hg and 17 ± 2 mm Hg, respectively P < 0.05). CSFP did not differ between Gp 1 and 2 (10 ± 3 mm Hg vs. 9 ± 1 mm Hg, P > 0.05). CSFD effectively kept CSFP at zero values in Gp 3 during AXC, but not in Gp 1. SCPP was significantly higher in Gp 3 than in Gp 1 and 2 (17 ± 2 mm Hg vs -3 ± 4 mm Hg and 4 ± 1 mm Hg, respectively, P < 0.05). All animals in Gp 1 and 2 suffered paraplegia, as opposed to none in Gp 3. NTG causes paraplegia by decreasing SCPP. When used in conjunction with CSFD, it controls Px-BP without causing paraplegia. CSFD cannot counteract the negative effects of SNP on SCPP; therefore, SNP contributes to postoperative paraplegia. The effects of NTG on cerebrospinal fluid dynamics are different from those of SNP. We caution surgeons against the use of NTG without CSFD during aortic cross-clamping.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)61-65
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Surgical Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 1997
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery

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