Pressure wave injuries to the nervous system caused by high-energy missile extremity impact: Part I. Local and distant effects on the peripheral nervous system--a light and electron microscopic study on pigs

J Trauma. 1990 Mar;30(3):281-94. doi: 10.1097/00005373-199003000-00006.


Pigs were used for studies of effects on the peripheral nervous tissue of pressure waves induced by impact and passage through the left thigh of high-energy missiles. The short-lasting pressure waves were demonstrated to move close to the speed of sound and to have a spectrum of high frequencies and large amplitudes. The sciatic nerve in the contralateral leg showed no hemorrhage or major deformation. Both immediately after the missile impact and after 48 hr the myelin sheaths in the contralateral sciatic nerve showed deformation. Myelin was bulging into the axon, dislocating the axoplasm. The nodes of Ranvier could be exposed to an increased extent. Electron microscopic examination revealed decreased number of microtubules immediately after the trauma, persisting even after 48 hr in the largest axon. Schwann cells showed, especially after 48 hr, signs of damage and swelling. Similar changes, although less extensive, were noticed in the phrenic nerves as well as in unmyelinated axons in both sciatic and phrenic nerves. It is concluded that a high-energy missile hit in the thigh of a pig, caused structurally demonstrable dislocations of myelin sheaths, and disarrangement of cytoskeleton and endoplasmic reticulum in axons as well as other signs of damage. The changes may interfere with the normal functions of peripheral and autonomic nerves.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abdomen / physiopathology
  • Animals
  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Hindlimb / injuries
  • Male
  • Muscles / physiopathology
  • Phrenic Nerve / pathology*
  • Phrenic Nerve / ultrastructure
  • Pressure
  • Sciatic Nerve / pathology*
  • Sciatic Nerve / ultrastructure
  • Swine
  • Wounds, Gunshot / pathology*
  • Wounds, Gunshot / physiopathology