The density of nociceptive SP- and CGRP-immunopositive nerve fibers in the dura mater lumbalis of rats is enhanced after laminectomy, even after application of autologous fat grafts

Eur Spine J. 2008 Oct;17(10):1362-72. doi: 10.1007/s00586-008-0741-7. Epub 2008 Aug 15.


A considerable number of patients complain about pain after lumbar surgery. The spinal dura mater has been debated as a possible source of this pain. However, there is no information if laminectomy influences the nociceptive sensory innervation of the dura. Therefore, we quantitatively evaluated the density of SP- and CGRP-immunopositive nerve fibers in the dura mater lumbalis in an animal model of laminectomy. Twelve adult Lewis rats underwent laminectomy, in six of them the exposed dura was covered by an autologous fat graft. Further six animals without surgical treatment served as controls. Six weeks after surgery, the animals were perfused and the lumbar dura was processed immunohistochemically for the detection of CGRP- and SP-containing nerve fibers. In controls, the peptidergic nerve fibers were found predominantly in the ventral but rarely in the dorsal dura mater lumbalis. After laminectomy, the density of SP- and CGRP-immunopositive neurons significantly increased in ventral as well as in dorsal parts of the dura. Axonal spines could be observed in some cases at the site of laminectomy. The application of autologous fat grafts failed to inhibit the significant increase in the density of peptidergic afferents. Thus, we have provided the first evidence that laminectomies induce an increase in the density of putative nociceptive SP- and CGRP-immunopositive neurons in the lumbar dura mater ascribable to an axonal sprouting of fine nerve fibers. This effect was not prevented by using autologous fat grafts. It is conceivable that the neuronal outgrowth of nociceptive afferents is a cause of low back pain observed after lumbar surgery.

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / transplantation*
  • Animals
  • Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide / metabolism
  • Dura Mater / cytology*
  • Dura Mater / metabolism
  • Dura Mater / surgery
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Laminectomy / adverse effects*
  • Low Back Pain / etiology
  • Lumbosacral Region
  • Male
  • Nerve Fibers / metabolism
  • Nociceptors / cytology*
  • Nociceptors / metabolism
  • Postoperative Complications*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Lew
  • Spinal Cord / metabolism
  • Spinal Cord / surgery
  • Substance P / metabolism


  • Substance P
  • Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide