Sensory innervation of lumbar vertebral bodies in rats

Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2007 Jun 15;32(14):1498-502. doi: 10.1097/BRS.0b013e318067dbf8.


Study design: Using a retrograde neurotracing method with Fluoro-Gold (FG), the level at which dorsal root ganglions (DRGs) innervate the L2 and L5 vertebral bodies and the innervation pathways were investigated in rats.

Objective: To clarify the levels at which DRGs innervate the lumbar vertebral bodies and to determine the pathways from the L2 and L5 vertebral bodies to DRGs.

Summary of background data: Elderly patients with osteoporosis sometimes experience lumbar vertebral fracture and may also feel diffuse nonlocalized pain in the back, lateral portion of the trunk, and area surrounding the iliac crest. However, the pattern of sensory innervation of vertebral bodies remains unclear.

Methods: Forty female Sprague-Dawley rats were used. FG crystals were applied to the L2 (L2 vertebra group) or L5 (L5 vertebra group) vertebral bodies via an anterior approach, and numbers of labeled neurons in DRGs from T10 to L6 were counted. To determine sensory pathways, bilateral sympathectomy was performed.

Results: In nonsympathectomy animals, FG-labeled neurons were present in DRGs from T11 through L3 in the L2 vertebra group and from T13 through L6 in the L5 vertebra group. The number of labeled neurons following sympathectomy was not significantly different in L1, L2, and L3 DRGs in the L2 vertebra group or in L3, L4, L5, and L6 DRGs in the L5 vertebra group from those in nonsympathectomy animals. In contrast, fewer labeled DRG neurons were present in sympathectomy animals at T11, T12, and T13 in the L2 vertebra group, and at T13, L1, and L2 in the L5 vertebra group than in nonsympathectomy animals (P < 0.01).

Conclusion: Sensory nerve fibers in the L2 and L5 vertebral bodies are derived from the T11-L3 and T13-L6 DRGs, respectively. Some sensory nerves from the L2 and L5 vertebral bodies enter the paravertebral sympathetic trunks and reach the DRGs at multisegmental levels. The present findings regarding multisegmental innervation to vertebral bodies may explain the diffuse pain that originates within osteoporotic vertebral fractures in elderly patients.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Female
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Ganglia, Spinal / anatomy & histology*
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / innervation*
  • Neurons, Afferent*
  • Photomicrography
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Staining and Labeling / methods
  • Stilbamidines
  • Sympathectomy


  • 2-hydroxy-4,4'-diamidinostilbene, methanesulfonate salt
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Stilbamidines