Front Neurol, Feb 2021

Acute Traumatic Spinal Cord Injury in Humans, Dogs, and Other Mammals: The Under-appreciated Role of the Dura

Samira Saadoun, Nicolas D Jeffery


We review human and animal studies to determine whether, after severe spinal cord injury (SCI), the cord swells against the inelastic dura. Evidence from rodent models suggests that the cord swells because of edema and intraparenchymal hemorrhage and because the pia becomes damaged and does not restrict cord expansion. Human cohort studies based on serial MRIs and measurements of elevated intraspinal pressure at the injury site also suggest that the swollen cord is compressed against dura. In dogs, SCI commonly results from intervertebral disc herniation with evidence that durotomy provides additional functional benefit to conventional (extradural) decompressive surgery. Investigations utilizing rodent and pig models of SCI report that the cord swells after injury and that durotomy is beneficial by reducing cord pressure, cord inflammation, and syrinx formation. A human MRI study concluded that, after extensive bony decompression, cord compression against the dura may only occur in a small number of patients. We conclude that the benefit of routinely opening the dura after SCI is only supported by animal and level III human studies. Two randomized, controlled trials, one in humans and one in dogs, are being set up to provide Level I evidence.

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