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Ultrastructural Evidence Of Arterial Denervation Following Experimental Subarachnoid Hemorrhage

Thomas A. Duff, Grayson Scott, John A. Feilbach

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✓ Loss of catecholamine histofluorescence, increased sensitivity to norepinephrine, and changes in alpha1 receptor binding have led to the proposal that denervation hypersensitivity may play a role in cerebrovascular spasm. Because the significance of these alterations has remained unclear, the present study was undertaken to determine whether there was direct ultrastructural evidence of arterial denervation following experimental subarachnoid hemorrhage. Under general anesthesia, adult cats were subjected to pre-pontine injection of blood or serum (5 to 7 ml) via a transclival approach. The animals were sacrificed 4, 7, or 10 days later and basilar artery segments were prepared for electron microscopy. Control vessels appeared normal, whereas those bathed in blood revealed unequivocal changes in neural and supporting elements, including: 1) disintegration of both clear- and dense-core vesicles; 2) fragmentation of varicosities; 3) loss of Schwann cell cytoplasm; and 4) axonal degeneration. These changes were most pronounced 7 days after instillation of blood, and correlated in time with maximal injury of the media and endothelium. Although the development of smooth-muscle hypersensitivity remains unsettled, this study indicates that prolonged exposure to blood can cause extensive denervation of cerebral arteries.