Spinal cord injury (SCI) attributed to acute intervertebral disc extrusions (IVDEs) is common in dogs and is treated by surgical decompression. Dogs with sensorimotor complete injuries have an incomplete recovery. Pulsed electromagnetic fields (PEMFs) reduce post-operative pain through anti-inflammatory effects and there is growing evidence for neuroprotective effects. This randomized, controlled clinical trial evaluated the effect of PEMF on post-operative pain and neurological recovery in dogs with surgically treated sensorimotor complete SCI attributed to acute IVDE. Sixteen dogs with surgically treated complete thoracolumbar SCI were randomized to receive PEMF (15 min every 2 h for 2 weeks then twice-daily for 4 weeks) or placebo starting immediately after diagnosis. The primary outcome was gait score at 2 weeks. Secondary measures of gait, pain perception, and proprioceptive function were evaluated at 2 and 6 weeks. Plasma glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) concentration was measured as an SCI biomarker. Post-operative pain was quantified by measuring mechanical sensory thresholds (MSTs) at control and surgical sites. There was no significant difference in demographics or GFAP concentration between the two groups at trial entry. There was no difference in primary outcome or in secondary measures of gait, but proprioceptive placing was significantly better at 6 weeks and GFAP concentrations were significantly lower at 2 weeks in the PEMF group. MSTs were significantly higher in the PEMF-treated group. We conclude that PEMF reduced incision-associated pain in dogs post-surgery for IVDE and may reduce extent of SCI and enhance proprioceptive placing. Larger clinical trials are warranted.
Keywords: GFAP; biomarker; hemilaminectomy; pain; spinal cord injury.